Introduction: Who’s Afraid of Contemporary History?

  • Helen Kingstone
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


The Introduction argues that the recent past fascinated and pre-occupied Victorian writers. The chapter explains why narrating the period within living memory is a challenging task, and shows how the legacy of Romantic historicism, the gradual professionalization of the historical discipline, and even the growth of social history, all exacerbated these challenges. It identifies the French Revolution and the 1832 Reform Act as the foci of particularly persistent retrospect by Victorian writers. After outlining the temporal continuum and social continuum as key concepts for the study, and situating itself in existing scholarship, the chapter closes by delineating the book’s structure. Part I provides a conceptual framework, Part II examines case studies of Victorian contemporary history writing by historians, and Part III examines Victorian retrospective provincial novels.


Recent Past Historical Narrative French Revolution Woman Writer Grand Narrative 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Kingstone
    • 1
  1. 1.Leeds Centre for Victorian StudiesLeeds Trinity UniversityLeedsUnited Kingdom

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