A Liberal Descent: Victorian historians and the English past by J. W. Burrow

By J. W. Burrow

The assumption of a 'Whig interpretation' of English historical past contains the 2 primary notions of development and continuity. the previous made it attainable to learn English heritage as a 'success story', the latter recommended a practical, gradualist political sort because the starting place of English freedom. Dr Burrow's ebook discover those principles, and the tensions among them in experiences of 4 significant Victorian historians: Macaulay, Stubbs, Freeman and (as whatever of an anti sort) Froude. It analyses their works when it comes to their rhetorical suggestiveness in addition to their particular arguments, and makes an attempt to put them of their cultural and historiographical context. In doing so, the booklet additionally seeks to set up the importance for the Victorians of 3 nice crises of English historical past - the Norman conquest, the reformation and the revolution of the 17th century - and the character and bounds of the self-confidence they have been in a position to derive from the nationwide earlier. The ebook will curiosity scholars and academics engaged on nineteenth-century English background, literature or social and political suggestion, the background of principles, and criminal and constitutional historical past. it's going to even be of price to the overall reader drawn to Victorian literature and cultural historical past.

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A Liberal Descent: Victorian historians and the English past

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1 7 1 . 40 H u m e , p . 108. 41 Millar, Historical View, iii. 286. H a l l a m , Const. , i. 5 6 - 7 . M a c a u l a y , Works, i. 4 4 9 , 4 7 7 ; ii. 4 3 2 ; iv. ; v. ; vii. j6. Millar, iii. 1 1 2 - 2 4 .

4° THE WHIG thing more than a nominal pre-eminence'. 15 Charitably, we could assume that Macaulay intended here merely to deny that the deprivation of veto was so damaging to the monarchy as Hallam had asserted, though it is hard to understand his grounds. But in context the effect is of Macaulay judging the constitutionality of acts done or contemplated in the seventeenth century by subsequent constitutional practice. Macaulay is led to this anachronism by what seems in other respects a merit in his view of the seventeenth-century crisis: he places it, more emphatically than Hallam, in the general context of transformations in society.

For Macaulay on the latter, see Works, v. 158. Macaulay: progress and piety 43 needless to illustrate in detail his more general, more celebrated and celebratory remarks on progress. It is amusing, though, to find him even invoking his favourite concept to deal with a kink in the Whig genealogy. The disturbance caused to the Whig canon by the revelation of Algernon Sydney's dealings with France has already been mentioned. Some, like Millar and Fox, resolved to brazen it out. 31 To admit these imperfections and speak of the constitution in its full bloom as necessarily the work of time had become a standard feature of Whig historiography, but Macaulay is unusual in the emphasis and directness with which he amplifies this explanation with the concepts and diction of eighteenth-century 'sociological' history.

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