Sir Lewis Namier (1888–1960) was not only a major twentieth-century historian, a pioneer of ‘scientific history’ who gave his name to a particular form of history-writing, but an important public intellectual. He played a significant role in public affairs, as an influential adviser to the British Foreign Office during the First World War and later as an active Zionist. This article offers a new perspective on his life and work by providing, for the first time, as comprehensive a bibliography as is currently possible of his voluminous writings: books, scholarly articles and contributions to periodicals and newspapers, including many hitherto unknown, and some published anonymously. The annotation includes not only bibliographical information but explanations and brief summaries of the content. The introduction gives an account of Namier’s life and an assessment of his significance as a historian and thinker.
Lewis Namier was one of the most important historians of the twentieth century. His work on the politics of the 1760s, based on the ‘scientific’ analysis of a mass of contemporary documents, and emphasising the material and psychological elements of human motivation, was seen by contemporaries as ’revolutionary’ and remains controversial. It gave a new word to the English language: to Namierise. Moreover, Namier played a major role in public affairs, in the Foreign Office, 1915–20, and in the Zionist Organisation in the 1930s, and was close to many of the leading figures of his day. This is the first biography of Namier for half a century, and the first to integrate all aspects of his life and thought. Based on a comprehensive range of sources, including the entire corpus of Namier’s writings, it provides a full account of his background, examines his role in politics and reconstructs his work as a historian, showing the origins and development of his ideas about the past, and the subjects which preoccupied him: nationalism, empire, and the psychology of individuals and groups. Namier’s life and writings illuminate many of the key events of the twentieth century, his belief in the power of nationalism and the importance of national territory, foreshadowing problems which still beset our own world.
The eighteenth century was long deemed ‘the classical age of the constitution’ in Britain, with cabinet government based on a two-party system of Whigs and Tories in Parliament, and a monarchy whose powers had been emasculated by the Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689. This study furthers the work of Sir Lewis Namier, who, in 1929, argued that no such party system existed, George III was not a cypher, and that Parliament was an administration composed of factions and opposition. George III is a high-profile and well-known character in British history, whose policies have often been blamed for the loss of Britain's American colonies, around whom rages a perennial dispute over his aims: was he seeking to restore royal power or merely exercising his constitutional rights? This is a chronological survey of the first ten years of his reign through power politics and policy making.
of a fund with the object of offering hospitality and facilities for prosecuting their work in Manchester to Professors displaced for political reasons
from posts in European Universities’.9 Evidence does not exist to identify
the source of the Vice-Chancellor’s initiative. One of those refugees who
later benefited from it believed that ‘an important part’ was played by Lewis
Refugees at the University of Manchester
Namier, the Polish-born Professor of History, a man of international reputation, Jewish origin and strong Zionist affiliations.10
printed text has ‘see’ for ‘seek’.
Thomas, John Wilkes, p. 18. For the search for a Chancellor of the Exchequer see Nicholas, Thesis, pp. 57–62.
Bute Letters, pp. 104–5.
Grenville Papers, I, 447, 450. Nicholas, Thesis, pp. 61–3.
Walpole, Memoirs, I, 334.
For a list of the 210 present at the levee of 2 June, compiled for Newcastle,
see BL Add. MSS. 32939, fos 309–11.
Malmesbury MSS. Photocopies A171.
BL Add. MSS. 35421, fos 259–60. Namier, Age, p. 328.
Devonshire Diary, p. 173. Bute Letters, p. 129. Malmesbury MSS.
Photocopies A172. Namier, Age, pp. 326–40.
idea of Whig mythology that
George III had ambitions of autocratic monarchy is complete nonsense. The myth that his mother Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales,
The parameters of politics
urged her son, ‘George, be a King’, with the implication that she
meant a monarch in the German tradition, has long been exploded.
Historian Sir Lewis Namier joked that she was referring to his table
manners. His mother’s successful endeavour was to instil in her eldest son, though not his brothers, the virtues of religion and morality.6
work had sometimes been the lazy academic’s excuse for
doing nothing, idlers posing as perfectionists with impossibly high
standards, and it was perhaps right that some should be exposed. But
rushing into print did not always produce happy results. Older scholars complained of superfluous journals crammed with ‘Lilliputian
pfaff ’, of the recycling and repetition of indifferent material, of the
impossibility of contemplating a magnum opus which would burst on
the world with the force of Darwin’s Origin of Species or Namier’s
Structure of Politics, even of a growing
the prospect of a cabinet post at home, was
unwilling to play any such role, and left Ireland on 1 May. He nevertheless retained the office of Lord-Lieutenant throughout the Bute
ministry, for the Irish Parliament was enjoying a biennial recess.
1 BL Add. MSS. 51406, fo. 57.
2 He recorded both the original and the altered wording. Leicester House
Politics, pp. 214–15.
3 Devonshire Diary, p. 89.
4 Namier, Age, pp. 120–1.
5 Leicester House Politics, p. 216.
6 BL Add. MSS. 32913, fo. 399.
7 Devonshire Diary, p. 43.
8 Namier, Age, pp. 122–6.
9 BL Add. MSS. 32913
proponents for a particular
case wanted others to believe.
The archives consulted contain letters to and from the religious and
lay leaders of the United Synagogue and others, minutes of meetings,
rabbinical rulings and so forth. We would not today ascribe the same
reliability to these sources as Elton or Namier might have done, but
they do give an important insight into the private feelings of the leading
participants and the nature of the debates between them.72 We do not
have to believe every word they said or wrote to ﬁnd the fact that they
said or wrote it useful.73