Immersion and Overview in Histories without Hindsight

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


This chapter showcases the work of three historians who defied Victorian convention and wrote narratives of the recent past within living memory. As amateurs in an age of professionalization, they benefited from extra freedom, but also had to prove their claim to authority. The chapter analyzes Harriet Martineau’s History of England during the Thirty Years’ Peace (1849), J. R. Green’s A Short History of the English People (1874 [1878]) and Spencer Walpole’s History of England from the End of the Great War in 1815 (1878–86 [1890]), examining how they approached the challenge of writing history without hindsight. Unable to offer Enlightenment-style philosophical overview, they instead embraced their state of immersion. However, they and their reviewers saw the resultant focus on small-scale details in gendered terms, labeling them effeminate.


Short History National History History Writing English People Contemporary History 
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  3. ———. The History of England during the Thirty Years’ Peace. 2 vols. London: Charles Knight, 1849.Google Scholar
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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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