The Whig Interpretation of History by Herbert Butterfield

The Whig historian studies the past with reference to the present. He looks for agency in history. And, in his search for origins and causes, he can easily select those facts that give support to his thesis and thus eliminate other facts equally important to the total picture. The Whig historian tends to judge, to make history answer questions, and to overdramatize by simplification and organization around attractive themes. The value of history, however, as Professor Butterfield shows, lies in the richness of its recovery of the concrete life of the past. The true historian studies the past for its own sake. He sees 'in each generation a clash of wills out of which there emerges something that probably now man ever willed, ' and his creative work is to make the past intelligible to the present by insight and sympathy with the conditions of the past.

The 491st greatest nonfiction book of all time

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  1. - The 50 Best Books of the Century (Intercollegiate Studies Institute)

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