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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Christianity, diplomacy and war. Jun 30, Mike Horne rated it it th amazing. 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 Clearly one of the targets was Acton; to him Bentley feels we must add R.

The Whig approach therefore acts perhaps as an extreme symbol of this bias, and a warning of how history can be distorted when we fail to remain histoyr of our personal inclinations which may affect our work. In the Whig Interpretation Butterfield had noted with satisfaction that historians had little reflected on the nature of their subject, and in Man on his Past he reassured readers that his enquiry was not about theory. His first, The Peace Tactics of Napoleonwas published inat the end of a fairly turbulent period for Butterfield.

Books by Herbert Butterfield. His Wiles lectures, after a stuttering start, butterfieeld got into their stride.

It weighs in at pages, however, Butterfield claimed that this constituted less than half of his original manuscript. Jan 05, Usha Chilukuri rated it really liked it.

The Whig Interpretation of History

Butterfield inerpretation the tendency of historians to interpret hutterfield as progressively cumulative in the present; or equally, to selectively use history as an ideological justification of “my views”; or finally, to anachronistically read their ideologies into the past so that its heroes were all fighting to produce the ideas they now possess. 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.


This is a must-read for all historians. Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge — This comment follows Butterfield’s discussion of how a interpretatuon 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.

Aug 10, Kristen Cray rated it really liked it. Back to 7 J. Furthermore, in constructing this interpretation historians usually committed anachronisms by seeing the past entirely in terms of the present.

Back to 22 September References to this book Communication as Culture: Lists with This Book. TrevelyanLondon,p. Of course not; there were some very good people who just had wrong ideas. The Origins of History.

It brings to light overlooked assumptions and presents a sharp critique of historians who simplify history and adore it only for what it can give to the present. Back to 6 Thus, the arch-Tory Bishop Stubbs is seen as one of the great Whig historians on this interpretation.

As mentioned above, the post-war period was a productive period for Butterfield. Influenced Thomas Kuhn [2]. Gamble’s Philosophy of History. Working from an extended examination of the Reformation, Butterfield breaks down how a Whig progressive interpretation of history inherently dilutes historical inquiry into a simple chain of cause and effect flavored with a heady dose of moral indignation.


This thw was read for a class, butterfirld I was intrigued by it from almost the first page. He needed a new publication, and quickly. At the time however, its merits were enough to convince the Master of Peterhouse to elect Butterfield to a History Fellowship alongside Temperley and Paul Vellacott.

He is especially useful for early 21st Cent Americans because he pushed against the cartoonish and reductionistic tendency to render Protestantism as “liberal” or “modern” and Roman Catholicism as “conservative” or “traditional.

Butterfield turned increasingly to historiography and man’s developing view of interpretatjon past. Lives up to its reputation. History assembles facts from primary sources and then tells a narrative ubtterfield help laypeople understand how they fit together.

Refresh and try again. The Whig Interpretation did not refer to Whig politicians, but to the 19th-century interpretation of history as one long triumphant march of progress. Want to Read Currently Reading Read.

In calling for historians to present the complexity of history rather than a simplified chain of consequences, Butterfield hits the mark. Take another example in the Civil Rights Movement.

The Life and Thought of Herbert Butterfield | Reviews in History

Carr, What is History London,p. Moral Judgements in History. To ask other readers questions about The Whig Interpretation of Historyplease sign up. To some extent, I am frankly tempted to label it “required reading” for any student of history.