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


At this point it is appropriate to discuss in greater detail the characteristics of Butterfield’s notion of providence. As has been seen, in The Whig Interpretation Butterfield argued that what ‘our history brings to us is not proof of providence but rather the realisation of how mysterious are its ways’. At the same time, in order to preserve the notion of a non-interpretative historiography, he allowed that ‘we may if we like read this into our history’. Yet, from 1942 onwards, it became clear that Butterfield’s references to providence were not rhetorical, but indicated a belief basic to his historical understanding. This was a ‘history-making that was going on over men’s heads, at cross-purposes with all of them’ resulting in an ‘historical process which so cheats men of their purposes’ and ‘which deflects their labours to such unpredictable results’. Moreover, he saw humanity as living in an active relationship with this providence, being able to ‘play providence’ by making the best out of the disasters wrought by previous generations.1


Historical Process Human History Human Personality Human Drama Christian Belief 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    Friedrich Meinecke, Machiavellism (1957), p. 388, esp. n. 2.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    OMS, p. 168. Cf. Elie Halevy, A History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century I (1949), pp. 389–451.Google Scholar
  3. 65.
    John Telford, Man’s Partnership with Divine Providence (1919), pp. 2–5, 83–100.Google Scholar
  4. 69.
    E. Griffith-Jones, Providence-Divine and Human (1925), pp. 17–19, 67–111 and 108–11 respectively.Google Scholar
  5. 70.
    Thomas Stevenson, in Divine Providence in the Light of Personality (1930), pp. 11–25; cf. pp. 218–34.Google Scholar
  6. 71.
    L. E. Elliott-Binns, Divine Providence and Human Destiny (1943), pp. 32f., 61–86.Google Scholar
  7. 88.
    Cf. G. C. Berkouwer, The Providence of God (1952), esp. pp. 50–187.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Keith C. Sewell 2005

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations