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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Working from an extended examination of the Refo In The Whig Interpretation of History, Herbert Butterfield presages the hyper-political and hyper-moralizing nature of modern history and historiography, in which the past is measured by the present and history is shown as a linear evolution towards progress. This book reminded me of why I love history so much: The “whig interpretation,” as Butterfield calls it, sees history as a struggle between a succession of good libertarian parties and evil reactionary forces, failing to do justice to history’s true complexity.

This comment follows Butterfield’s discussion of how a historian shapes the past from their present perspective, not necessarily in the extreme distortion of the Whigs, but with regard to phrasing and presentation, so that the past becomes familiar and understandable to their contemporary audience. Nov 14, Allan Williams rated it really liked it Shelves: Butterfield also captures a very intriguing aspect of historical study in his comment that: Selected pages Title Page.

Over the course of his career, Butterfield turned increasingly to historiography and man’s developing view of the past. In its place, Butterfield seeks to establish a view of history which focuses upon how conflict and compromise produced the mediating forces which caused history to develop and move forward, not towards some shining point of enlightenment, but instead to move forward from the trials of the past to build a viable future; Butterfield seeks truth in complexity and survival.


This is imposing a 21st century view of equality onto a people group several generations back. The Art of the Historian 6.

Herbert Butterfield

As a deeply religious Protestant, Butterfield was highly concerned with religious issues, but he did not believe that historians could uncover the hand of God in history. Butterfield argued that the historian must seek the ability to see events as they were perceived by those who lived through them.

Excellent analysis of Whig history–that is, defining the past in terms of the present. In interpretatikn sense the choice of topic was a surprise; many had expected something on Fox; or perhaps the Whig interpretation of history. The Whig Interpretation of History.

A further stroke in made him virtually housebound, and he died on 20 July 20 Butterfield was a fellow at Cambridge from —79 and in the s, he was a fellow of the Institute for Hidtory Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

References to this book Communication as Culture: Retrieved from ” https: History is not the study of origins; rather it is the analysis of all the mediations by which the past was turned into our present”.

The Life and Thought of Herbert Butterfield | Reviews in History

This book has really opened my own eyes to things that I see everyday in social media. At the same time Butterfield was writing on science, he was addressing the subject of religion.

But we want to do this, because it proves our own point politically, religiously, or economically in our current world.

Vickers considers the book a late example of the earliest stage of modern analysis of the history of Renaissance magic in relation to the development of science, when magic was largely dismissed as being “entertaining but irrelevant”. Randy rated it it was amazing May 14, This was actually the second time I read this — first was back in ’93 but seemed 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 herbetr.


Bell, In The Whig Interpretation of History, Herbert Butterfield presages the hyper-political and hyper-moralizing nature of modern history and historiography, in which the past is measured by the present and history is shown as a linear evolution towards progress.

Butterfield’s book, The Whig Interpretation of Historybecame a classic for history students itnerpretation is still widely read. Want to Read Currently Reading Read.

The Origins of History. Back to 21 See Kenyon, p. In other projects Wikiquote Wikisource. In he was elected to the chair of Modern History, and from — he was master of Peterhouse, as well as holding the vice-chancellorship of the university between and This is akin to blatant dishonesty. Skip to main content. Butterfield wrote that “Whiggishness” is too handy a “rule of thumb Butterfield therefore raises some crucial issues with interpretatoon to historiography and the study of history.

Want to Read saving…. Fair enough, but I’m willing to step out and make the claim that Pol Pot was a wicked man. Just a moment while bytterfield sign you in to your Goodreads account.

Refresh and try again. A quick read, and justifiably a classic. Reading this book was like watching someone put five coats of high gloss paint on a rotten board. University of Chicago Press, 2nd ed. Many reasons have been put forward as to why he did not finish the Fox biography. Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge — Apr 17, Rebecca rated it really liked it.

This historj was last edited on 14 Juneat They are opening the door for seven devils which, precisely because they are newcomers, are bound to be worse than the first. Take a very recent example in Michelle Obama.