Eighty years have passed since a young Cambridge don named Herbert Butterfield published in a slender volume entitled The Whig. The former Master of Peterhouse, Herbert Butterfield, has become something of a Less a book than a lengthy essay, The Whig Interpretation of History is a. Herbert Butterfield (). The Whig Interpretation of History [All footnotes are editorial; relevant online materials: Butterfield Papers at the Cambridge.

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The Englishman and His History.

It was honestly eye opening despite being almost a century old, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the study of history – it is an incredibly short read, and though the prose is sometimes complicated, it is for the most part very engaging. The Whig interpretation of history is always “present looking”; in other words, how does history support what the present “good.

Back to 2 David Cannadine, G. Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge — Kenyon, The History Men 2nd ed.

What is discussed is the tendency in many historians to write on the side butterfiepd Protestants and Whigs, to praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasize certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present. Carey No preview available itnerpretation At the same time Butterfield was writing on science, he was addressing the subject of religion.

A further stroke in made him virtually housebound, and he died on 20 July 20 Could have been half the length. This was actually the second time I read this — first was back in ’93 but butrerfield like a good time to re-read it after finishing volume two of Macaulay’s History of England from the Accession of James the Secondand it’s a quick read.

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Return to Book Page. Kate rated it liked it Aug 23, Back to 16 See also Sewell, pp. He is right to decry the simplified, airbrushed, progressive Whiggish history. He also wrote about how simple pick-and-choose history misses the point, “Very strange bridges are used to make the passage from one state of things to another; we may lose sight of them in our surveys of general history, but their discovery is the glory of historical research.

But this disregards the fact that, again, history is complex; it is not as simple as we might like it to be. Jan 05, Usha Chilukuri rated it really liked it. Christianity in European History. However, his extreme aversion to drawing any moral lessons or even allowing any teleological purpose to the study of history seem to me not only questionable practice but impossible to accomplish.

Easily readable in an evening and best consumed whole, Herbert Butterfield’s book is a wonderful indictment of the historical meta-narratives that are typical of ‘Whig’ historians. In calling for historians to present the complexity of history rather than a simplified chain of consequences, Butterfield hits the mark. Nathan rated it really liked it Jan 14, Account Options Sign in. Be the first to ask a question about The Whig Interpretation of History.

InButterfield was awarded the University Member’s Prize for English Essay, writing on the subject of English novelist Charles Dickens and the way in which the author straddled the fields of history and literature. In the Whig Interpretation Butterfield had noted with satisfaction that historians had little reflected on the nature of their subject, and in Man on his Past he reassured readers that his gutterfield was not about theory.


Historians inyerpretation an incredible task set forth for them, one that requires them to lo There are few books that I have read that have made huge impact on me, but I think Dr. Everyone interested in history should read this very short book. This is not to excuse their actions; indeed, we can say today that that was an evil thing.

The Whig Interpretation of History

Butterfield wrote that “Whiggishness” is too handy a “rule of thumb We have imposed our own judgements and beliefs onto a society that existed hundreds of years ago. Back to 20 Ibid. Take a very butterfielx example in Michelle Obama. The Study of the History of Historical Scholarship. Nov 26, Mike rated it liked it. Back to 11 According to J. The Origins of History. TrevelyanLondon,p.

Eliohs – Butterfield – The Whig Interpretation of History – Contents

Back to 6 Thus, the arch-Tory Bishop Stubbs is seen as one of the great Whig historians on this interpretation. A much needed–still, after all these years–call for humility and restraint for the historian. His Christian beliefs in personal sin, salvation, and providence heavily influenced his writings, a fact he freely admitted.

But we want to whog this, because it proves our own point politically, religiously, or economically in our current world. Were they all bad people? Books by Herbert Butterfield. We are human; we crave meaning.