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

By J. W. Burrow

The belief of a 'Whig interpretation' of English historical past accommodates 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 practical, gradualist political variety because the origin of English freedom. Dr Burrow's publication discover those principles, and the tensions among them in stories of 4 significant Victorian historians: Macaulay, Stubbs, Freeman and (as anything of an anti variety) Froude. It analyses their works by way of their rhetorical suggestiveness in addition to their specific 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 heritage - the Norman conquest, the reformation and the revolution of the 17th century - and the character and boundaries of the self-confidence they have been in a position to derive from the nationwide prior. The booklet will curiosity scholars and academics engaged on nineteenth-century English heritage, literature or social and political inspiration, the heritage of rules, and felony and constitutional heritage. it is going to even be of price to the overall reader attracted to Victorian literature and cultural background.

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The characteristically Scottish conception of stages of the history of civil society, on the other hand, though it fostered classification and comparison, and even, as for example in the work of Adam Ferguson,46 provided the basis for a critique of modern commercial society, allowed, obviously, for no appeal to earlier 'stages' to determine questions of right. When respect was paid to the past it was done in the eighteenth-century manner, as a kind of profit and loss balance sheet applied to the development of civilisation, not as an appeal to the past as authority.

But the English liberties it affirmed and secured, it also in a sense confirmed; their prior existence, wilted at times but still vital, constituted the essential thrust and meaning of English history and was a precondition of the Revolution's lasting success: of the stable, ordered liberty it had so effectively promoted. The history of England was that of a deeply, almost, it seemed, providentially favoured country; favoured by circumstance, by the spirit of its people and institutions from an early date, and by its history.

34 THE WHIG constitutionalism was valid in the seventeenth century; there was a free constitution for Parliament to defend, and in defending to add to and improve, though it was only the parent of the constitution enjoyed today. Hence the seventeenth-century Parliamentarians were allowed, and even, by the exacting Whig requirements, obliged, to have, as it were, both the past and the future in their bones; to be better constitutional lawyers and historians than the royalists, and also to sense, without full comprehension, the current of progress, the great surge of England's destiny and perhaps the world's.

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