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E. A. Freeman and Victorian public morality
Author: Vicky Randall

This book seeks to reclaim E. A. Freeman (1823–92) as a leading Victorian historian and public moralist. Freeman was a prolific writer of history, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and outspoken commentator on current affairs. His reputation declined sharply in the twentieth century, however, and the last full-scale biography was W. R. W. Stephens’ Life and Letters of Edward A. Freeman (1895). When Freeman is remembered today, it is for his six-volume History of the Norman Conquest (1867–79), celebrations of English progress, and extreme racial views.

Revisiting Freeman and drawing on previously unpublished materials, this study analyses his historical texts in relationship to the scholarly practices and intellectual preoccupations of their time. Most importantly, it draws out Thomas Arnold’s influence on Freeman’s understanding of history as a cyclical process in which the present collapsed into the past and vice versa. While Freeman repeatedly insisted on the superiority of the so-called ‘Aryans’, a deeper reading shows that he defined race in terms of culture rather than biology and articulated anxieties about decline and recapitulation. Contrasting Freeman’s volumes on Western and Eastern history, this book foregrounds religion as the central category in Freeman’s scheme of universal history. Ultimately, he conceived world-historical development as a battleground between Euro-Christendom and the Judeo-Islamic Orient and feared that the contemporary expansion of the British Empire and contact with the East would prove disastrous.

Vicky Randall

Best known as a historian of England and Europe, Freeman had an enduring interest in the Orient which has been largely overlooked by modern scholars. Writing in 1877, Freeman reflected that he had ‘read, thought, and written’ about the East ‘for many years’ and that the subject had been ‘through life my chief secondary object of study’. 1 As noted in the Introduction, Freeman became aware of Oriental history when he read William Cooke Taylor’s History of the Overthrow of the Roman Empire as an adolescent. In the pages of this book he would have found

in History, empire, and Islam
Abstract only
The evolution of a subject
Nicholas Canny

Several of those who have set out to explain the emergence of Atlantic History as a distinct subject of enquiry have begun by seeking to establish when the concept of an Atlantic World first came into vogue. Those who have done so have found that the concept of an Atlantic Community, if not of an Atlantic World, was first popularized in the aftermath of the Second World War by scholars who considered that the liberal-democratic values that had been gradually enshrined into law by governments on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean from the late

in The TransAtlantic reconsidered
A programme for the teaching of history in the post- national era
Thomas Adam

Teaching history at American colleges and universities currently undergoes significant changes and transformations. Fundamental questions are raised about how we teach history and what we teach as history. There is the pressure of university administrations and boards of regents to develop online courses which students can take at their own pace. The large survey courses in American and World History are relocated from lecture halls into the virtual world of the internet where students are guided through the material with interactive tools

in The TransAtlantic reconsidered
Vicky Randall

As noted in the Introduction, the Norman Conquest was Freeman’s magnum-opus – a work which absorbed his interest for over thirty years, and on which his contemporary and posthumous reputation has rested. While scholarly interest in the Norman Conquest is intensifying, the tendency is still to dissect, rather than to thoroughly examine, these volumes. What is needed is a more holistic approach. As Bratchel observed, fifty years ago, ‘Freeman’s five volume History … might almost be regarded as being as instructive for the student of the nineteenth as for

in History, empire, and Islam
The critique of British expansionism
Vicky Randall

It is worth reiterating two aspects of Freeman’s racialised thinking before turning to consider his views on imperialism. First, Freeman presented English history as one chapter in a wider narrative of the progress of the Aryan race. The English were, for him, the foremost representatives of the Teutonic branch of an Aryan ‘family’ which also included the modern European descendants of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In this sense, Freeman’s nationalism was muted: as Burrow writes, Freeman ‘wanted to be a Whig on a European scale’ and he celebrated the shared

in History, empire, and Islam
Vicky Randall

While Freeman’s second major work of Oriental history, The Ottoman Power in Europe , was published twenty-one years after the first, he nevertheless wished the book ‘to be taken as in some sort a companion to my lately reprinted History and Conquests of the Saracens’. 1 Freeman felt that the Ottoman Power complemented the approach and subject matter of the earlier Saracens because ‘[n]‌either pretends to be an account of the whole branch of the subject’. 2 ‘In both’, he explained, I deal with Eastern and Mahometan affairs mainly in their reference

in History, empire, and Islam
Transatlantic debates about the Nazi past
Konrad H. Jarausch

developing a substantive and methodological cooperation which has been extraordinarily intense and fruitful. 8 Though East German historians also attempted to follow the Marxist lead of their Soviet colleagues, their communication remained more superficial and reluctant than among their western counterparts. 9 In the West, the joint transatlantic effort to confront the historical reasons and consequences of the Nazi dictatorship produced an entirely new subspecialty – German contemporary history. 10 How did this surprising disciplinary innovation that supported the

in The TransAtlantic reconsidered
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‘History is past politics, politics is present history’
Vicky Randall

History is past politics, politics is present history’ was the favourite saying of the historian and public controversialist Edward Augustus Freeman (1823–92). Over the course of his career, Freeman produced thirty-four historical works, and drew on his knowledge of the past to make frequent contributions to debates on contemporary affairs in the periodical press. 1 Claiming to embody the objectivity of the new ‘professional’ historian while seeking attention as a ‘public moralist’, Freeman occupied a central, but ambiguous, place in Victorian intellectual

in History, empire, and Islam
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Vicky Randall

This book has attempted a reinterpretation of Edward Freeman, analysing his activities as a historian and political campaigner, and positioning him as a leading public moralist of the Victorian age. Previous scholarship on Freeman has tended to dissect his output, focusing on his celebration of English history and his Aryan racialism, and representing him as a confident proponent of the Whig historiographical tradition which celebrated Western progress. In my opinion, this approach privileges some of Freeman’s ideas above others and gives only a partial

in History, empire, and Islam