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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As a result, Buttefield implies that as ages and social values change, so will our view of the past and consequently it will need to be reformulated. His Christian beliefs in personal sin, salvation, and providence heavily influenced his writings, a fact he freely admitted. We, on the other hand, will not dream of wishing it away, but will rejoice in an interpretation of the past which has grown up with us, has grown up with the history itself, and has helped to make the history Diplomatic history was traditionally a fairly dry subject, often consisting of what one clerk said to another.

This is not to excuse their actions; indeed, we can say today that that was an evil thing.

Paperbackpages. 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 This book was read for a class, and I was intrigued by it from almost the first page.

At the same time, Butterfield’s early works emphasized the limits of a historian’s moral conclusions, “If history can do anything it is to remind us that all our judgments are merely relative to time and circumstance”.

In some sense the choice of topic was a surprise; many had expected something on Fox; or perhaps the Whig interpretation of history. His inveterate smoking and unhealthy lifestyle saw the last 20 years of his life plagued by health problems.


The Whig Interpretation of History – Herbert Butterfield – Google Books

Views Read Edit View history. Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge — To ask other readers questions about The Whkg Interpretation of Historyplease sign up. May 05, Stephen rated it really liked it.

Bentley goes to great lengths to exonerate Butterfield from the charge of being a fellow-traveller — more than is necessary I suspect. It is the essence of what we mean by the word “unhistorical”.

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The Whig Interpretation of History

And, in his search for origins and causes, he can easily select those facts that give support to his thesis and thus eliminate other facts equally important to the total picture. We are human; we crave meaning. This book was read butterfiels a class, and I was intrigued by it from almost the first page. In addition, Butterfield considers how the historian should view the past from butterffield perspective of the present, and the utility of the past for modern citizens.

But this disregards the fact that, again, history is complex; it is not as simple as we might like it to be. The whig interpretation came at exactly the crucial moment and, whatever it may have done to our history, it had a wonderful effect on English politics Want to Read saving…. They are opening the door for seven devils which, precisely because they are newcomers, are bound interpretatioon be worse than the first.

At the height of the Cold Warhe warned that conflicts between self-righteous value systems could be catastrophic:. No eBook available W. Despite herebrt 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.


The former Master of Peterhouse, Herbert Butterfield, has become something of a cottage industry over the past ten years or so, with a number of butherfield resurrecting th career that had previously fallen into neglect. Nathan rated it really liked it Jan 14, 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. 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.

Back to 22 September Use has been made of words like conjuncture and contingency to describe what appear as such to the observer and to the historian.

Back to 16 See also Sewell, pp. The butterfiield themselves were a disappointment — audience turnout was small and Butterfield himself was underprepared. Published September 17th by W.

Eliohs – Butterfield – The Whig Interpretation of History – Preface

The Whig interpretation of history is now a general label applied to various historical interpretations. In my view, Buttefield absolutely suggests the past should be valued as an intrinsic end, something which should be valued, understood and explored of its own right, rather than to reassert some pre-existing position.

One of my favorites. I would recommend this book to interpretatioh interested in the role of a historian in society and the role of bias in historiography, and what precisely is the goal of history.