Political Philosophy

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

By J. W. Burrow

The assumption of a 'Whig interpretation' of English heritage comprises the 2 basic notions of development and continuity. the previous made it attainable to learn English background as a 'success story', the latter counseled a realistic, gradualist political variety because the origin of English freedom. Dr Burrow's ebook discover those rules, and the tensions among them in reviews of 4 significant Victorian historians: Macaulay, Stubbs, Freeman and (as whatever of an anti kind) Froude. It analyses their works by way of 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 ebook 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 previous. The publication will curiosity scholars and lecturers engaged on nineteenth-century English historical past, literature or social and political inspiration, the historical past of principles, and criminal and constitutional historical past. it is going to even be of price to the overall reader drawn to Victorian literature and cultural heritage.

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16 The leading assumption of what Dugald Stewart called 'conjectural history' and which in the nineteenth century came to be called 'the Comparative Method'17 is that different societies at different times may be at essentially the same stage of social development, while societies co-existing in time may represent 'earlier' or 'later' stages respectively. In Macaulay's History it is a standard point of reference, a conceptual pigeonhole almost as much frequented by him as historical reminiscence, Baconian induction, or assertion of the unique intellectual, social and economic progress of Europe since the sixteenth century.

8 THE WHIG fanaticism of the Parliamentary opposition than to any abiding 'spirit of liberty' in the constitution. Progress and the constitution: the Whig compromise In the Whig historians of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Millar and Brodie, and the English, Fox, Hallam and Russell, it is tempting to see these emphases continued; Scottish cosmopolitanism set against English nationalism, the Scottish conception of the growth of liberty as part of the history of civilisation against an English Burkean conception of the English people weaving the fabric of a free constitution, spider-like, out of its own entrails.

If the solution did not answer, it must be because someone was wilfully rejecting it, just as the kindred belief that the Bible, read with a pure heart and mind, was of unequivocal import, tended to deny to theological opponents any claim to good intentions. 40 It was an historiographical tradition not rich in a sense of history's tragic ironies. But despite this continuing intransigence it was found in the long run impossible to argue that the view held of English constitutional history by the seventeenth-century Parliamentarians and common lawyers was literally correct.

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