Herbert Butterfield

Herbert Butterfield

Sir Herbert Butterfield (October 7, 1900 – July 20, 1979) was a British historian and philosopher of history who is remembered chiefly for a slim volume entitled "The Whig Interpretation of History" (1931).


Butterfield was born in Oxenhope in Yorkshire, and received his education at the Trade and Grammar School in Keighley. He was awarded an MA by Cambridge University in 1926. Butterfield was a fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey in the 1950s and at Cambridge from 1928 to 1979. He was Master of Peterhouse (1955-1968), Vice-Chancellor of the University (1959-1961), and Regius Professor of Modern History (1963--1968). Butterfield served as editor of the Cambridge Historical Journal from 1938 to 1952. He was knighted in 1968. He married Edith Joyce Crawshaw in 1929, and had three children.


Butterfield's main interests were historiography, the history of science, eighteenth-century constitutional history, Christianity and history, and the theory of international politics. [ [http://www.giffordlectures.org/Author.asp?AuthorID=32 Gifford Lectures – Biography of Butterfield] ] As a Protestant, Butterfield was highly concerned with religious issues, but he did not believe that historians could uncover the hand of God in history.

The Whig Interpretation of History

In "The Whig Interpretation of History", Butterfield defined "whiggish" history as essentially teleological: "the tendency of many historians to write on the side of Protestants and Whigs, to praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasize certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present." Fact|date=October 2008

He had in mind especially the historians of his own country, but his criticism of the retroactive creation of a line of progression toward the glorious present can be, and has subsequently been, applied more generally.

He found Whiggish history objectionable because it warps the past to see it in terms of the issues of the present, to squeeze the contending forces of, say, the mid-seventeenth century into those which remind us of ourselves most and least, or the imagine them as struggling to produce our wonderful selves. They were of course struggling, but not for that.

Butterfield wrote that Whiggishness is too handy a 'rule of thumb ... by which the historian can select and reject, and can make his points of emphasis'.


“The greatest menace to our civilization is the conflict between giant organized systems of self-righteousness - each only too delighted to find that the other is wicked - each only too glad that the sins of the other give it pretext for still deeper hatred.”


*"The Historical Novel", 1924.
*"The Peace Treaties of Napoleon, 1806-1808", 1929.
*"The Whig Interpretation of History", 1931.
*"Napoleon", 1939.
*"The Statecraft of Machiavelli", 1940.
*"The Englishman and His History", 1944.
*"Lord Acton", 1948.
*"Christianity and History", 1949.
*"George III, Lord North and the People, 1779-80", 1949.
*"The Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800", 1949.
*"History and Human Relations", 1951.
*"Reconstruction of an Historical Episode: The History of the Enquiry into the Origins of the Seven Years' War", 1951.
*"Liberty in the Modern World", 1951.
*"Christianity, Diplomacy and War", 1952.
*"Man on His Past: The Study of the History of Historical Scholarship, 1955.
*"Moral Judgments in History", 1959.
*"George III and the Historians", 1957, revised edition, 1959.
*"Diplomatic Investigations: Essays in the Theory of International Politics" (co-edited with Martin Wright), 1966.
*"The Origins of History", ed. A. Watson, London, 1981.

Works on Herbert Butterfield

* McIntire, C. T., Herbert Butterfield: Historian as Dissenter, Yale University Press, 2004


#if: {colwidth|}| style="-moz-column-width:{colwidth}; column-width:{colwidth};" | #if: {1|}| style="-moz-column-count:{1}; column-count:{1} };" |>


*Chadwick, Owen "Acton and Butterfield" pages 386-405 from "Journal of Ecclesiastical History", volume 38, 1987.
*Coll, Alberto R. "The Wisdom of Statecraft: Sir Herbert Butterfield and the Philosophy of International Politics", Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1985.
*Elliott, J.H. & H.G. Koenigsberger (editors) "The Diversity of History: Essays in Honour of Sir Herbert Butterfield", Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1970.
*Elton, G.R. "Herbert Butterfield and the Study of History" pages 729-743 from "Historical Journal", Volume 27, 1984.
*Thompson, Kenneth W. (editor) "Herbert Butterfield: The Ethics of History and Politics", Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1980.
* Schweizer, Karl "The International Thought of Herbert Butterfield", Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

ee also

*Whig history

External links

* [http://yalepress.yale.edu/YUPBOOKS/book.asp?isbn=9780300098075 Herbert Butterfield at Yale University Press]
* [http://ctlibrary.com/4497 Modern Pioneers: Herbert Butterfield]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Herbert Butterfield — (Oxenhope, 7 de octubre de 1900 – 20 de julio de 1979) historiador y filósofo de la historia británico. Becario de Peterhouse (Cambridge)y profesor de historia moderna en la Universidad de Cambridge. Sus ámbitos de investigación fueron la… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Herbert Butterfield — (* 7. Oktober 1900 in Oxenhope, West Yorkshire; † 20. Juli 1979 in Sawston, South Cambridgeshire) war ein britischer Historiker und Geschichtsphilosoph. Butterfield prägte den Begriff Whig Interpretation of History für eine Denkweise, nach der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Butterfield — may refer to: PlacesIn the United Kingdom: * Butterfield Green, LutonIn the United States: * Butterfield, Missouri * Butterfield, Minnesota * Butterfield, Texas * Butterfield Township, Michigan * Butterfield Township, MinnesotaPeople* Alexander… …   Wikipedia

  • Butterfield — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Alexander Butterfield (* 1926), Schlüsselfigur im Watergate Skandal Asa Butterfield (* 1997), britischer Schauspieler Billy Butterfield (eigentlich Charles William Butterfield; 1917−1988), US… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Herbert Covington Bonner — (* 16. Mai 1891 in Washington, North Carolina; † 7. November 1965 in Washington D.C.) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker. Er vertrat den Bundesstaat North Carolina als Abgeordneter im US Repräsentantenhaus. Leben Herbert Bonner graduierte… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Oak Grove Butterfield Stage Station — U.S. National Register of Historic Places U.S. National Historic Landmark …   Wikipedia

  • Whig history — or Whiggish historiography presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. In general, Whig historians stress the rise of …   Wikipedia

  • Liste der Biografien/But–Buz — Biografien: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Adam Watson — John Hugh Adam Watson (August 10, 1914 ndash; August 24, 2007) [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS grid= xml=/news/2007/09/28/db2803.xml Obituary] ] was a British International Relations theorist and researcher. Alongside… …   Wikipedia

  • Martin Wight — Robert James Martin Wight (26 November 1913 1972), also known as Martin Wight, was one of the foremost British scholars of International Relations in the twentieth century. He was the author of Power Politics (1946; revised and expanded edition… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”