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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Account Options Sign in. Butterfield’s book Christianity and Historyasks if history provides answers to the meaning of life, answering in the negative: Oct 14, Brenton rated it really liked it.

Back to 21 See Kenyon, p. This has deeply impacted my trust in historical accounts. This was a good book, attacking some unnecessary assumptions, while encouraging the pursuit of historical questions.

The Whig Interpretation of History

The Reconstruction of an Historical Episode: One of my favorites. The origins of this book were hardly disinterested academic ones — during the academic session of —4 an unfreezing of positions presented an opportunity for Butterfield to occupy the Chair of Modern History and become Professor Butterfield.

Jul 05, Miles Smith rated it liked it Shelves: Pages containing London Gazette template with parameter supp set to y Webarchive template wayback links Webarchive template archiveis links Use dmy dates from April Use British English from April Infobox person using alma mater Articles with hCards Pages using Template: The following study deals with “the whig interpretation of history” in what I conceive to be the accepted meaning of the phrase.

Maybe I’m not understanding Butterfield, but I think historical analysis must be more than descriptive or even interpretive I will re-read sections this weekend.

Any account of the Whig Interpretation must invariably mention a book that has come to be seen as its sequel — The Englishman and his History. Historians have an incredible task set forth for them, one that requires them to look at history and make subjective statements about those events.


Retrieved from ” https: The Whig historian oversimplifies and overdramatizes, trying to draw similarities between the past and present that don’t take into effect the complexities of history. A much needed–still, after all these years–call for humility and restraint for the historian. And he is right to point out that drawing simple, black and white moral judgments about past actions is a risky business.

Retrieved 29 July At the same time, he was given the Seeley Medal.

History and Judgements of Value 5. This is akin to blatant dishonesty.

This book has really opened my own eyes to things that I see everyday in social media. 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.

The subject is treated not as a problem in the philosophy of history, but rather as an aspect of the psychology of historians. The Study of the History of Historical Scholarship. References to this book Communication as Culture: Despite his humble origins, receiving his education at the Trade and Grammar School in Keighleyin he won a scholarship to study at Peterhouse, Cambridgegraduating with a BA infollowed by an MA four years later.

He is right to decry the simplified, airbrushed, progressive Whiggish history. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Aug 10, Kristen Cray rated it really liked it.

No trivia or quizzes yet. A classic work in historiography. Put me down as a whig. I also appreciated his point that the past must be measured by its own merits and studied within its own context rather than in light of what it contributed to the present.

The Whig Interpretation of History – Herbert Butterfield – Google Books

Furthermore, in constructing this interpretation historians usually committed anachronisms by seeing the past entirely in terms of the present.

From my perspective, whilst the past should not be viewed as a guidebook to ‘learn from’, and historians should not delve into the past in search of solutions to contemporary problems, the past undoubtedly does teach but not in the didactic sense of the word – whether on a personal level, with regard to family history, or on a universal level as a human being.


The progressive historian makes no attempt to get inside the minds of what a person thought and how he lived in order to understand the facts of history. He rightly cautions us away from linear, progressive, value-laden, reductionist interpretations of history toward an approach that appreciates the diversity and the meanderings of the past and one that sees the events and people of the past as they saw themselves.

An interesting read, Butterfield eloquently sets out an evaluation of the Whig school of thought, and deals successfully with the major faults of the tradition its failure to appreciate the past for the past’s sake, rather than as a means to an end, and its proclivity to view the past as an all-encompassing noun, rather than in specific detail.

Back to 20 Ibid. If you’ve ever wanted to throttle someone for claiming “all of history shows He needed a new publication, and quickly.

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

Selected pages Title Page.