• 5 • Empire and history writing since 1950 It’s our cultural bloodstream, the secret of who we are, and it tells us to let go of the past, even as we honour it. To lament what ought to be lamented and to celebrate what should be celebrated. And if in the end, that history turns out to reveal itself as a patriot, well then I think that neither Churchill nor Orwell would have minded that very much, and as a matter of fact, neither do I. (Simon Schama)1 they’re all leaky categories, history, nostalgia, memory, heritage. They’re not hermetically sealed categories
• 1 • Empire and history writing: setting the scene There are two ways to lose oneself: by a walled segregation in the particular, or by a dilution in the ‘universal’. (Aimé Césaire)1 The quotation above opens up some of the main issues discussed in this book. At a moment when the French faced demands for decolonisation in Algeria and Indo-China, the Martiniquais intellectual and politician Aimé Césaire announced his resignation from the French Communist Party in a public ‘letter’ to Thorez, its leader. Césaire is best known for his development of the idea of
• 2 • Empire and history writing c .1750–1830 Now the great map of mankind is unroll’d at once; and there is no state or gradation of barbarism and no mode of refinement which we have not at the same instant under our view. The very different civility of Europe and of China; the barbarism of Persia and Abyssinia; the erratic manners of Tartary and of Arabia; the savage state of North America and New Zealand. (Edmund Burke to William Robertson, on reading his History of America, 10 June 1777)1 In 1773, Hester Chapone, a writer associated with the ‘bluestocking
• 4 • Empire and history writing 1890s–1950 The civilization of Europe has been made the civilization of the world. (Ramsay Muir).1 In 1940 Ramsay Muir, a former professor of history in both England and India, as well as an activist and writer for the Liberal Party, produced a text entitled Civilisation and liberty. It was a sweeping historical treatment of those themes, whose publication was subsidised by the Association for Education in Citizenship. Written in the atmosphere of the Second World War, it linked Muir’s professional expertise in academic history
This book follows a particular thread of investigation and interpretation through the story of history writing in ‘Britain’ since the mid 18th century. The work covers the impact of involvement in empire on historical practice over this period. The purpose of this is to offer a different perspective on existing narratives of history and writing in Britain in its varied scholarly and popular forms by raising questions of imperial influence within those narratives. By positioning imperial themes within an account of ‘British’ history writing, the text thereby offers a postcolonial take on the story of historical practice. The book also aims to contribute to political and cultural histories of the United Kingdom by reframing understandings of the role of history writing and historical texts within those histories.
• 3 • Empire and history writing 1830s–1890s It might have been expected that every Englishman who takes an interest in any part of history would be curious to know how a handful of his countrymen, separated from their home by an immense ocean, subjugated, in the course of a few years, one of the greatest empires in the world. (T.B. Macaulay)1 In 1866 the publication of an eighth revised edition of William Cooke Taylor’s Student’s manual of modern history brought together two authors whose careers and interests illustrate some key features of history writing in
This article reconsiders the value of ‘shorter’ chronicles written in fourteenth-century England through a case study of the most popular of these, the Cronica bona et compendiosa, which survives in more manuscripts than most of the chronicles frequently used in scholarship. It examines the text’s authorship and narrative to show what it can reveal about history writing and ideas of the past, especially as they relate to medieval readers. It demonstrates the text’s influence on contemporary writers by showing how it was slightly adapted by the important chronicler Henry Knighton, which use has so far gone unnoticed. This article also includes an appendix listing twenty-three ‘shorter’ histories and their manuscripts, nearly all of which have not hitherto been identified.
The Irish Reformation is a contentious issue, not just between Catholic and Protestant, but also within the Protestant churches, as competing Presbyterian and Anglican claims are made over the history of the Irish reformation. This chapter looks at the way in which James Seaton Reid, (1798–1851), laid claim to the Reformation for Irish Dissent in his History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. It then examines the rival Anglican histories by two High Churchmen: Richard Mant (1775–1848), Bishop of Down and Connor; and Charles Elrington, (1787–1850), the Regius Professor of Divinity in Trinity College, Dublin. It is clear that, in each case, theological and denominational conviction decisively shaped their history writing. Equally, however, significant advances were made by all three scholars in unearthing important new primary sources, and in identifying key points of controversy and debate which still represent a challenge to eccleciastical historians, of whatever denomination or none, today.
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.
People are fascinated by the past. It was in the Elizabethan and early Stuart period that the study of past became an interest of the many rather than the preserve of the few. This book presents a study concerned with the importance of history, and especially the history of their own families and localities, to the provincial gentry of Elizabethan and early Stuart England. The first section presents an overview of the development of local-history writing in England, from its medieval and Tudor beginnings through to the period under discussion. It explores the historiographical context within which the Elizabethan gentry began to explore and express their interest in the past. This section also explores the regional networks that supported the development of local history and how an individual's social and religious status influenced membership of such networks. The second section involves the major historiographical strands represented in local history: genealogical, didactic and topographical. demonstrate how the interests, reactions and concerns of their contributors and readers influenced the content of the works. The genealogical content of local history exhibits the importance of lineage to late Elizabethan and early Stuart society and to the gentry's sense of their identity and status. The behaviour expected of a gentleman was addressed by the didactic content of the works. Finally, the book considers the relationship between developments in cartography and local history, and how they were shaped by the expectations of their gentry consumers.