Butterfield’s Critique of the Whig Interpretation
Butterfield published The Whig Interpretation of History in 1931.1 Much later, Owen Chadwick stated that it ‘put historians into a state of self-analysis and scrupulosity’ and contributed to ‘the modern and fruitful consideration of the problems of historiography’.2 It was a sustained critique of the motivation, methods and fallacious conclusions of the whig practice of staging narratives anachronistically so as to produce an inevitable ratification of the present, or justification of a position currently espoused by the author.3 It conveys the impression of having been produced at high tension after intense deliberation. It was written after discussions on anachronism and historical change in the meaning of words.4 It is one of Butterfield’s most important books, providing a fuller indication of the basis upon which the earlier works were written and containing the seeds of issues raised in his later writings.
KeywordsHistorical Study Historical Process Human History Historical Research Sustained Critique
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