Butterfield’s Critique of Namier

  • Keith C. Sewell
Part of the Studies in Modern History book series (SMH)


Lewis B. Namier was a powerful force in English historiography for much of Butterfield’s most productive years. He came to England in 1907 and established himself as an authority on eastern European affairs. After 1919 he turned to thé analysis of mid-eighteenth-century British politicians. He crowned his achievement in this field with major works on The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (1929) and England in the Age of the American Revolution (1930).1 Namier and Romney Sedgwick, his long-term associate, established a formidable reputation for detailed research on a vast scale, with their meticulous work on the correspondence of George III, especially in relation to the Newcastle papers in the British Museum.2 Namier’s purpose was to reconstruct the politics of the reign of George III by a systematic prosopographic analysis of the mechanics of late eighteenth-century administrations, and the economic and social connections of the men concerned with the business of government. His rising reputation attracted some and repelled others. Nevertheless, his vast researches and rejection of the whig interpretation appeared to make him a model technical historian. Butterfield acknowledged this, at least in his references to the ‘massiveness’ of the ‘detailed researches’ of Namier and Sedgwick, as the ‘type of achievement hardly paralleled in the historiography of our time’.3


Historical Process British Museum Richard Pares Conscious Intention American Revolution 
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Copyright information

© Keith C. Sewell 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith C. Sewell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryDordt CollegeUSA

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