Whig history

Whig history

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Whig history is the approach to historiography
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 which presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

 and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

 and constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

. In general, Whig historians stress the rise of constitutional government, personal freedoms and scientific progress
Scientific progress
Scientific progress is the idea that science increases its problem solving ability through the application of some scientific method.-Discontinuous Model of Scientific Progress:...

. The term is often applied generally (and pejoratively) to histories that present the past as the inexorable march of progress
Progress (history)
In historiography and the philosophy of history, progress is the idea that the world can become increasingly better in terms of science, technology, modernization, liberty, democracy, quality of life, etc...

 toward enlightenment. The term is also used extensively in the history of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

 for historiography that focuses on the successful chain of theories and experiments that lead to present-day science, while ignoring failed theories and dead ends. Remarkably, Whig history has many similarities with the Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 theory of history, which believes that humanity is moving (through historical stages) to the classless, egalitarian society of communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

.

Terminology


The British historian Herbert Butterfield
Herbert Butterfield
Sir Herbert Butterfield was a British historian and philosopher of history who is remembered chiefly for two books—a short volume early in his career entitled The Whig Interpretation of History and his Origins of Modern Science...

 coined the term "Whig history" in his small but influential book The Whig Interpretation of History (1931). It takes its name from the British Whigs, advocates of the power of Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

, who opposed the Tories
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

, advocates of the power of the King.

The term has been applied widely in historical disciplines outside of British history (the history of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

, for example) to criticize any teleological
Teleology
A teleology is any philosophical account which holds that final causes exist in nature, meaning that design and purpose analogous to that found in human actions are inherent also in the rest of nature. The word comes from the Greek τέλος, telos; root: τελε-, "end, purpose...

 or goal-directed, hero-based, and transhistorical narrative. The abstract noun "Whiggishness" is sometimes used as a generic term for Whig historiography. It should not be confused with "Whiggism", which is a political ideology, and has no direct relation to either the British Whig
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

 or American Whig
Whig Party (United States)
The Whig Party was a political party of the United States during the era of Jacksonian democracy. Considered integral to the Second Party System and operating from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s, the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic...

 parties. (The term "Whiggery" is ambiguous in contemporary usage: it may either mean party politics and ideology, or a general intellectual approach.)

Butterfield's intervention


When H. A. L. Fisher in 1928 gave the Raleigh Lecture on The Whig Historians, from Sir James Mackintosh to Sir George Trevelyan he implied that "Whig historian" was adequately taken as a political rather than a progressive or teleological
Teleology
A teleology is any philosophical account which holds that final causes exist in nature, meaning that design and purpose analogous to that found in human actions are inherent also in the rest of nature. The word comes from the Greek τέλος, telos; root: τελε-, "end, purpose...

 label; this put the concept into play. P. B. M. Blaas has argued that Whig history itself had lost all vitality by 1914.

Butterfield's book on the 'Whig interpretation' marked the emergence of a negative concept in historiography under a convenient phrase, but was not isolated. Undermining 'whiggish' narratives was one aspect of the post-World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 re-evaluation of European history in general, and Butterfield's critique exemplified this trend. Subsequent generations of academic historians have similarly rejected Whig history because of its presentist
Presentism (literary and historical analysis)
Presentism is a mode of literary or historical analysis in which present-day ideas and perspectives are anachronistically introduced into depictions or interpretations of the past...

 and teleological bent. According to Victor Feske, there is too much readiness to accept Butterfield's classic formulation from 1931 as definitive. A study, Herbert Butterfield and the Interpretation of History by Keith Sewell, was published in 2005.

Butterfield's formulation


The characteristics of Whig history as defined by Butterfield include interpreting history as a story of progress toward the present, and specifically toward the British constitutional settlement. Butterfield wrote:
Typical distortions thereby introduced are:
  • Viewing the British parliament
    Parliament of the United Kingdom
    The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

    ary, constitutional monarchy
    Constitutional monarchy
    Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

     as the apex of human political development;
  • Assuming that the constitutional monarchy was in fact an ideal held throughout all ages of the past, despite the observed facts of British history and the several power struggles between monarch
    Monarch
    A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

    s and parliament
    Parliament
    A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

    s;
  • Assuming that political figures in the past held current political beliefs (anachronism
    Anachronism
    An anachronism—from the Greek ανά and χρόνος — is an inconsistency in some chronological arrangement, especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other...

    );
  • Assuming that British history was a march of progress whose inevitable outcome was the constitutional monarchy; and
  • Presenting political figures of the past as hero
    Hero
    A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

    es, who advanced the cause of this political progress, or villain
    Villain
    A villain is an "evil" character in a story, whether a historical narrative or, especially, a work of fiction. The villain usually is the antagonist, the character who tends to have a negative effect on other characters...

    s, who sought to hinder its inevitable triumph.


Butterfield argued that this approach to history compromised the work of the historian in several ways. The emphasis on the inevitability of progress leads to the mistaken belief that the progressive sequence of events becomes "a line of causation
Causation (sociology)
The belief that events occur in predictable ways and that one event leads to another.If the relationship between the variables is non-spurious , the temporal order is in line , and the study is longitudinal, it may be deduced that it is a causal relationship....

," tempting the historian to go no further to investigate the causes of historical change. The focus on the present as the goal of historical change leads the historian to a special kind of abridgement, selecting only those events that seem important from the present point of view.

Butterfield's antidote to Whig history was "to evoke a certain sensibility towards the past, the sensibility which studies the past 'for the sake of the past', which delights in the concrete and the complex, which 'goes out to meet the past', which searches for 'unlikenesses between past and present'".

Subsequent views


Butterfield's formulation has subsequently received much attention, and the kind of historical writing he argued against in generalised terms is no longer academically respectable. Despite its polemical success, Butterfield's celebrated book itself has been criticised by David Cannadine
David Cannadine
Sir David Nicholas Cannadine, FBA is a British historian, known for a number of books, including The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy and Ornamentalism. He is also notable as a commentator and broadcaster on British public life, especially the monarchy. He serves as the generaleditor...

 as slight, confused, repetitive and superficial.

Michael Bentley
Michael Bentley (historian)
Michael Bentley is an English historian of British politics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Boyd Hilton has called Bentley's Politics without Democracy 1815-1914 "a wonderfully ‘inside’ account of life at the top", whilst K...

 analyses the "Whig theory" according to Butterfield as equivalent to the formation of a canon of 19th-century historians of England (such as William Stubbs
William Stubbs
William Stubbs was an English historian and Bishop of Oxford.The son of William Morley Stubbs, a solicitor, he was born at Knaresborough, Yorkshire, and was educated at Ripon Grammar School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated in 1848, obtaining a first-class in classics and a third in...

, James Anthony Froude
James Anthony Froude
James Anthony Froude , 23 April 1818–20 October 1894, was an English historian, novelist, biographer, and editor of Fraser's Magazine. From his upbringing amidst the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement, Froude intended to become a clergyman, but doubts about the doctrines of the Anglican church,...

, E. A. Freeman, J. R. Green, W. E. H. Lecky, Lord Acton, J. R. Seeley, S. R. Gardiner, C. H. Firth and J. B. Bury
J. B. Bury
John Bagnell Bury , known as J. B. Bury, was an Irish historian, classical scholar, Byzantinist and philologist.-Biography:...

) that in fact excludes few except Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

; the theory identifies the common factors. Bentley comments that,

Carlyle apart, the so-called Whigs were predominantly Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

, predominantly Anglican, thinkers for whom the Reformation
Reformation
- Movements :* Protestant Reformation, an attempt by Martin Luther to reform the Roman Catholic Church that resulted in a schism, and grew into a wider movement...

 supplied the critical theatre of enquiry when considering the origins of modern England. When they wrote about the history of the English constitution, as so many of them did, they approached their story from the standpoint of having Good News
Good news
Good News may refer to:*Good news , the message of Jesus*Good News , by Edward Abbey*Good News, a 1945 non-fiction work by Cyril Alington...

 to relate.


Roger Scruton
Roger Scruton
Roger Vernon Scruton is a conservative English philosopher and writer. He is the author of over 30 books, including Art and Imagination , Sexual Desire , The Aesthetics of Music , and A Political Philosophy: Arguments For Conservatism...

, in his A Dictionary of Political Thought (1982), takes the theory underlying "Whig history" to be centrally concerned with social progress
Social progress
Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution...

 and reaction
Reactionary
The term reactionary refers to viewpoints that seek to return to a previous state in a society. The term is meant to describe one end of a political spectrum whose opposite pole is "radical". While it has not been generally considered a term of praise it has been adopted as a self-description by...

, with the progressives shown as victors and benefactors. Cannadine wrote of the English tradition that:

It was fiercely partisan and righteously judgemental, dividing the personnel of the past into the good and the bad. And it did so on the basis of the marked preference for liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 and progressive causes, rather than conservative and reactionary ones. [...] Whig history was, in short, an extremely biassed view of the past: eager to hand out moral judgements, and distorted by teleology, anachronism and present-mindedness.

The Whig historians within a tradition


Paul Rapin de Thoyras
Paul de Rapin
Paul de Rapin , sieur of Thoyras , was a French historian writing under English patronage....

's history of England was published in 1723 and became "the classic Whig history" for the first half of the 18th century. Rapin claimed that the English had preserved their ancient constitution against the absolutist tendencies of the Stuarts. Rapin's history was, however, replaced as the standard history of England in the late 18th century and early 19th century by that of David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

. Hume challenged Whig views of the past and the Whig historians in turn attacked Hume; but they could not dent his history.

In the early 19th century some Whig historians came to incorporate Hume's views, dominant for the previous fifty years. These historians were members of the New Whigs around Charles James Fox
Charles James Fox
Charles James Fox PC , styled The Honourable from 1762, was a prominent British Whig statesman whose parliamentary career spanned thirty-eight years of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and who was particularly noted for being the arch-rival of William Pitt the Younger...

 and Lord Holland
Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland
Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland PC was an English politician and a major figure in Whig politics in the early 19th century...

, in opposition until 1830, and so "needed a new historical philosophy". Fox himself intended to write a history of the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

 of 1688 but only managed the first year of James II
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

's reign. A fragment was published in 1808. James Mackintosh
James Mackintosh
Sir James Mackintosh was a Scottish jurist, politician and historian. His studies and sympathies embraced many interests. He was trained as a doctor and barrister, and worked also as a journalist, judge, administrator, professor, philosopher and politician.-Early life:Mackintosh was born at...

 then sought to write a Whig history of the Glorious Revolution, published in 1834 as the History of the Revolution in England in 1688. William Blackstone
William Blackstone
Sir William Blackstone KC SL was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke...

's Commentaries on the Laws of England
Commentaries on the Laws of England
The Commentaries on the Laws of England are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law of England by Sir William Blackstone, originally published by the Clarendon Press at Oxford, 1765–1769...

(1765–9) and Henry Hallam
Henry Hallam
Henry Hallam was an English historian.-Life:The only son of John Hallam, canon of Windsor and dean of Bristol, Henry Hallam was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, graduating in 1799...

's Constitutional History of England (1827) reveal many Whiggish traits. According to Arthur Marwick
Arthur Marwick
Arthur John Brereton Marwick was a professor in history. Born in Edinburgh, he was a graduate of Edinburgh University and Balliol College, Oxford. - Career :...

, Hallam was the first Whig historian.

Hume still dominated English historiography but this changed when Thomas Babington Macaulay, utilising Fox and Mackintosh's work and manuscript collections, published the first volumes of his History of England in 1848. It was an immediate success, replacing Hume's history and becoming the new orthodoxy. While Macaulay was a popular and celebrated historian of the Whig school, his work did not feature in Butterfield's 1931 book. According to Ernst Breisach "his style captivated the public as did his good sense of the past and firm Whiggish convictions". Perhaps the pinnacle of Whig history is his widely read multivolume History of England from the Accession of James II. Macaulay's first chapter proposes that:
I shall relate how the new settlement was, during many troubled years, successfully defended against foreign and domestic enemies; how, under that settlement, the authority of law and the security of property were found to be compatible with a liberty of discussion and of individual action never before known; how, from the auspicious union of order and freedom, sprang a prosperity of which the annals of human affairs had furnished no example; how our country, from a state of ignominious vassalage, rapidly rose to the place of umpire among European powers; how her opulence and her martial glory grew together; how, by wise and resolute good faith, was gradually established a public credit fruitful of marvels which to the statesmen of any former age would have seemed incredible; how a gigantic commerce gave birth to a maritime power, compared with which every other maritime power, ancient or modern, sinks into insignificance; how Scotland, after ages of enmity, was at length united to England, not merely by legal bonds, but by indissoluble ties of interest and affection; how, in America, the British colonies rapidly became far mightier and wealthier than the realms which Cortes
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 and Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro González, Marquess was a Spanish conquistador, conqueror of the Incan Empire, and founder of Lima, the modern-day capital of the Republic of Peru.-Early life:...

 had added to the dominions of Charles the Fifth
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

; how in Asia, British adventurers founded an empire not less splendid and more durable than that of Alexander.

... (T)he history of our country during the last hundred and sixty years is eminently the history of physical, of moral, and of intellectual improvement.


A crucial figure in the later survival and respectability of Whig history was William Stubbs
William Stubbs
William Stubbs was an English historian and Bishop of Oxford.The son of William Morley Stubbs, a solicitor, he was born at Knaresborough, Yorkshire, and was educated at Ripon Grammar School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated in 1848, obtaining a first-class in classics and a third in...

, the constitutional historian and influential teacher of a generation of historians. According to Reba Soffer
George Kitson Clark
George Kitson Clark
George Sidney Roberts Kitson Clark was an English historian, a specialist in the nineteenth century.-Historian:He is known as a revisionist historian of the Repeal of the Corn Laws. G. D. H...

 writes

In the history of science


It has been argued that the historiography of science
Historiography of science
Historiography is the study of the history and methodology of the discipline of history. The historiography of science is thus the study of the history and methodology of the sub-discipline of history, known as the history of science, including its disciplinary aspects and practices and to the...

 is "riddled with Whiggish history". Like other Whig histories, Whig history of science tends to divide historical actors into "good guys," who are on the side of truth (as we now know it) and "bad guys," who opposed the emergence of these truths because of ignorance or bias. From this Whiggish perspective, Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 would be criticized because his astronomical system placed the Earth at the center of the universe while Aristarchus
Aristarchus of Samos
Aristarchus, or more correctly Aristarchos , was a Greek astronomer and mathematician, born on the island of Samos, in Greece. He presented the first known heliocentric model of the solar system, placing the Sun, not the Earth, at the center of the known universe...

 would be praised because he placed the Sun at the center of the solar system. This kind of evaluation ignores historical background and the evidence that was available at a particular time: did Aristarchus have evidence to support his idea that the Sun was at the center; were there good reasons to reject Ptolemy's system before the 16th century?

The writing of Whig history of science is especially found in the writings of scientists and general historians, while this whiggish tendency is commonly opposed by professional historians of science. Nicholas Jardine describes the changing attitude to whiggishness this way:

By the mid-1970s, it had become commonplace among historians of science to employ the terms ‘Whig’ and ‘Whiggish’, often accompanied by one or more of ‘hagiographic’, ‘internalist’, ‘triumphalist’, even ‘positivist’, to denigrate grand narratives of scientific progress. At one level there is, indeed, an obvious parallel with the attacks on Whig constitutional history in the opening decades of the century. For, as P. B. M. Blaas has shown, those earlier attacks were part and parcel of a more general onslaught in the name of an autonomous, professional and scientific history, on popular, partisan and moralising historiography. Similarly,... For post-WWII champions of the newly professionalized history of science the targets were quite different. Above all, they were out to establish a critical distance between the history of science and the teaching and promotion of the sciences. In particular, they were suspicious of the grand celebratory and didactic narratives of scientific discovery and progress that had proliferated in the inter-war years.


More recently, some scholars have argued that Whig history is essential to the history of science. At one level, "the very term 'the history of science' has itself profoundly Whiggish implications. One may be reasonably clear what 'science' means in the 19th century and most of the 18th century. In the 17th century 'science' has very different meaning. For example chemistry is inextricably mixed up with alchemy. Before the 17th century dissecting out such a thing as 'science' in anything like the modern sense of the term involves profound distortions." The science historians' rejection of whiggishness has been criticized by some scientists for failing to appreciate the temporal depth of scientific research.

As teleology


In The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986, see anthropic principle
Anthropic principle
In astrophysics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is the philosophical argument that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it. Some proponents of the argument reason that it explains why the Universe has the age and the fundamental...

 for details) John D. Barrow
John D. Barrow
-External links:****** The Forum-Publications available on the Internet:************...

 and Frank J. Tipler
Frank J. Tipler
Frank Jennings Tipler is a mathematical physicist and cosmologist, holding a joint appointment in the Departments of Mathematics and Physics at Tulane University. Tipler has authored books and papers on the Omega Point, which he claims is a mechanism for the resurrection of the dead. It has been...

 identify Whiggishness (Whiggery) with a teleological principle, of 'convergence' in history to liberal democracy
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

.

In popular culture


Despite their shortcomings as interpretations of the past, Whiggish histories continue to influence popular understandings of political and social development. This persistence reflects the power of dramatic narratives that detail epic struggles for enlightened ideals. Aspects of the Whig interpretation are apparent in films, television, political rhetoric, and even history textbooks.

Popular understandings of human evolution
Human evolution
Human evolution refers to the evolutionary history of the genus Homo, including the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species and as a unique category of hominids and mammals...

 and paleoanthropology
Paleoanthropology
Paleoanthropology, which combines the disciplines of paleontology and physical anthropology, is the study of ancient humans as found in fossil hominid evidence such as petrifacted bones and footprints.-19th century:...

 may be imbued with a form of "whiggishness". See, for example, the celebrated scientific illustration, The March of Progress
March of Progress (illustration)
The March of Progress, or simply March of Progress, is one of the most famous and recognizable scientific illustrations ever produced. A compressed presentation of 25 million years of human evolution, it depicts 15 human evolutionary forebears lined up as if marching in a parade from left to right...

(1965). Most portrayals and fictionalized adaptations of the Scopes Trial
Scopes Trial
The Scopes Trial—formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes and informally known as the Scopes Monkey Trial—was a landmark American legal case in 1925 in which high school science teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee's Butler Act which made it unlawful to...

, such as in Inherit the Wind
Inherit the Wind (play)
Inherit the Wind is a play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. The play, which debuted in 1955, is a parable that fictionalizes the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial as a means to discuss the then-contemporary McCarthy trials.-Background:...

(1955), subscribe to a Whig view of the trial and its aftermath. This was challenged by historian Edward J. Larson in his book Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (1997), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for History
Pulitzer Prize for History
The Pulitzer Prize for History has been awarded since 1917 for a distinguished book upon the history of the United States. Many history books have also been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography...

 in 1998.

Further reading

  • Butterfield, Herbert. The Whig Interpretation of History (1931)
  • Hart, Jenifer. "Nineteenth-Century Social Reform: A Tory Interpretation of History," Past & Present No. 31 (Jul., 1965), pp. 39–61 in JSTOR
  • Mayr, Ernst. "When Is Historiography Whiggish?" Journal of the History of Ideas, April 1990, Vol. 51 Issue 2, pp 301–309 in JSTOR

See also

  • Anachronism
    Anachronism
    An anachronism—from the Greek ανά and χρόνος — is an inconsistency in some chronological arrangement, especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other...

  • Chronological snobbery
    Chronological snobbery
    Chronological snobbery, a term coined by friends C. S. Lewis and Owen Barfield, is a logical argument describing the erroneous argument that the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior when compared to that of the present...

  • Historian's fallacy
    Historian's fallacy
    The historian's fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when one assumes that decision makers of the past viewed events from the same perspective and having the same information as those subsequently analyzing the decision...

  • Historiography
    Historiography
    Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

  • Precursorism
    Precursorism
    Precursorism, called in its more extreme forms precursoritis or precursitis, is a characteristic of that kind of historical writing in which the author seeks antecedents of present-day institutions or ideas in earlier historical periods. This kind of anachronism is considered to be a form of Whig...

  • Presentism
    Presentism (literary and historical analysis)
    Presentism is a mode of literary or historical analysis in which present-day ideas and perspectives are anachronistically introduced into depictions or interpretations of the past...

  • Schools of History
    Schools of History
    There are many Schools of History, each reflecting different historiographical approaches to the subject.Note that a "School" of History is neither a physical structure nor an educational establishment, but is a term applied to a group of like-minded academics.Historians may or may not "officially"...

  • Great man theory
    Great man theory
    The Great Man Theory was a popular 19th century idea according to which history can be largely explained by the impact of "great men", or heroes: highly influential individuals who, due to either their personal charisma, intelligence, wisdom, or Machiavellianism utilized their power in a way that...

  • Ethnocentrism
    Ethnocentrism
    Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one's own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with...

  • Classical liberalism
    Classical liberalism
    Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

  • Predestination
    Predestination
    Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

  • Soviet historiography
    Soviet historiography
    Soviet historiography is the methodology of history studies by historians in the Soviet Union . In the USSR, the study of history was marked by alternating periods of freedom allowed and restrictions imposed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , and also by the struggle of historians to...

    , another style of historiography driven by political preconceptions

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