C. V. Wedgwood: The Historian and the World
The British historian of early modern England and Europe C. V. Wedgwood was one of the most decorated, prolific, and popular writers of the twentieth-century Anglophone world. Wedgwood wrote scholarly history for anyone interested in learning about the past. She kept her audience firmly in mind: the world of educated men and women, interested in politics, art, theater, fiction, and poetry. This was a world beyond the academy and epitomized by fashionable London society before, during, and immediately after World War II. Wedgwood believed that the “first duty” of the historian was to an audience: to educate, illuminate and tell a story. Nor was drawing morals problematic, for “if the accurate, judicious and highly trained fail to do so, the unscrupulous and unqualified will do it for them.” This essay focuses on Wedgwood’s career as a public intellectual, surveying her concerns to educate and influence men and women outside of the academy. Wedgwood saw history as far too important to be imparted only within schools and universities. The historian needed to be in the world, serving humanity.