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History and the Enlightenment

History and the Enlightenment

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    History and the Enlightenment
    Book Description:

    Arguably the leading British historian of his generation, Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003) is most celebrated and admired as the author of essays. This volume brings together some of the most original and radical writings of his career-many hitherto inaccessible, one never before published, all demonstrating his piercing intellect, urbane wit, and gift for elegant, vivid narrative. This collection focuses on the writing and understanding of history in the eighteenth century and on the great historians and the intellectual context that inspired or provoked their writings. It combines incisive discussion of such figures as Gibbon, Hume, and Carlyle with broad sweeps of analysis and explication. Essays on the Scottish Enlightenment and the Romantic movement are balanced by intimate portraits of lesser-known historians whose significance Trevor-Roper took particular delight in revealing.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16840-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Editor’s Introduction
    (pp. vi-xxii)
    John Robertson
  4. Editorial Note
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  6. CHAPTER 1 The Historical Philosophy of the Enlightenment
    (pp. 1-16)

    It is appropriate, from Lake Leman, to look back not merely, in general, at the Enlightenment, but, more particularly, at the historiography of the Enlightenment. In Geneva the greatest of its Italian historians, Pietro Giannone, found his only safe retreat. Here lived Giannone’s friend and protector Jacob Vernet, the link between him and his French successors Montesquieu and Voltaire. Here Montesquieu published hisDe l’Esprit des lois; here Voltaire completed and published hisEssai sur les moeurs. Here, at Lausanne, Gibbon laid both the first foundations and the final stone of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Scottish Enlightenment
    (pp. 17-33)

    The first International Congress on the Enlightenment took place in Geneva. It is appropriate that the second should be in Scotland. For if French-speaking Switzerland was the crucible of the Enlightenment, the meeting-place of those intellectualémigrésof Europe who inspired it, Scotland, another Calvinist country, was its outpost in the Anglo-Saxon world. By the later eighteenth century, the universities of Geneva and Edinburgh could be described by Thomas Jefferson as the two eyes of Europe.

    The phenomenon of the sudden Scottish revival, after its dark age in the seventeenth century, is very perplexing. Foreigners, perhaps, were not fully aware...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Pietro Giannone and Great Britain
    (pp. 34-53)

    In one of those footnotes toThe Decline and Fall of the Roman Empirewhich cast such shafts of light on European intellectual history, Gibbon sets out the pedigree of what he and his contemporaries called ‘philosophic’, and his predecessors ‘civil history’: that is, history seen in its totality, the product of its own internal laws, deducible from its own course by secular human reason. In such total history, the history of the Church is not privileged: it is subject to the same laws, an integral part of the whole. The pioneers of this history in the modern world, says...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Dimitrie Cantemir’s Ottoman History and its Reception in England
    (pp. 54-70)

    I discovered the writings of Dimitrie Cantemir, prince of Moldavia, long ago, when I first read Edward Gibbon’sDecline and Fall of the Roman Empire. There, in his description of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Gibbon tells us how the victorious sultan, Mahomet II, after performing ‘thenamazof prayer and thanksgiving on the great altar, where the Christian mysteries had so lately been celebrated before the last of the Caesars’, went from the cathedral of Santa Sophia to ‘the august but desolate mansion’ of the Christian emperors. As he viewed those abandoned halls, ‘a melancholy reflexion on the...

  10. CHAPTER 5 From Deism to History: Conyers Middleton
    (pp. 71-119)

    In the 1690s there began in England a concerted attack both on the central doctrines and on the external proofs of orthodox Christianity. From one quarter, the divine inspiration of the Bible was questioned. Thereby the historic context and cosmological significance of Christ’s mission were made to tremble. From another, the doctrine of the Trinity, which had become the badge of orthodoxy in the fourth century, and had been defended by fire and faggot ever since, was openly challenged. With it, not only the authority of the Fathers who had invented and imposed it, but the divinity of Christ himself,...

  11. CHAPTER 6 David Hume, Historian
    (pp. 120-128)

    As a historian, who now reads David Hume? As a philosopher, he is one of the immortals, but hisHistory of England, to which in his lifetime he owed greater fame, sits neglected on the shelves of English country houses and is sold as a job lot in country sales. And yet, for over sixty years, Hume dominated the interpretation of English history. He was the first of ‘philosophical historians’. Voltaire praised him as a historian such as could only write in a free country. Gibbon regarded him as ‘the Tacitus of Scotland’ (and Tacitus, he once wrote, was the...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Idea of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    (pp. 129-143)

    We all tend to simplify, perhaps to dramatise, our mental development. In retrospect, the slow processes of the mind are disguised, sometimes even obliterated, by the dramatic moment of discovery, or conversion. St Augustine’stolle lege, Newton’s apple . . . intellectual history is full of such episodes which immortalise, though they may not explain, crucial stages in the transformation of thought. In the historical philosophy of the Enlightenment there is one such moment, and it too has been immortalised by retrospective isolation. ‘It was at Rome, on 15th October 1764’, Gibbon wrote in his autobiography, ‘as I sat musing...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Gibbon and the Publication of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776–1976
    (pp. 144-160)

    In 1976 we celebrate the bicentenary of – among other events – the publication of the first volume ofThe Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. That publication, as is well known, created an immediate sensation, It was asuccès de scandale. In this lecture, if I speak briefly of that sensation, it is in order to look past it and see what I believe is far more important and has been far less generally recognised, then or now: the revolutionary historical philosophy which, in that year, almost unnoticed in the noise of sectarian battle, moved in to command...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Gibbon’s Last Project
    (pp. 161-175)

    In Gibbon’s literary career there is a certain recurrent syndrome. Before he started work onThe Decline and Fall of the Roman Empirehe had toyed with various topics quite unrelated to that subject, all of them in early modern history: the life of Sir Walter Ralegh, the French invasion of Italy in 1494, Medicean Florence, the history of the liberty of the Swiss; and he wrote occasional specialised pieces. But all the time he was reading and thinking about the Roman Empire, which finally took over and dispersed these phantoms.

    Then, in 1781, when the first three volumes of...

  15. CHAPTER 10 The Romantic Movement and the Study of History
    (pp. 176-191)

    The interests of John Coffin, in whose memory this lecture was founded, were evidently various. They included literature, philosophy, history. Today it is the turn of history. But it seemed to me, when I sought for a title, that, in order to commemorate him, I should not be too austerely historical: that I should examine before you some aspect of history which partakes also of literature and philosophy; and for this reason, I have chosen as my subject, or at least for my title – for it is a great mistake to give away too much in a title -...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Lord Macaulay: The History of England
    (pp. 192-222)

    Lord Macaulay is unquestionably the greatest of the ‘whig historians’. By the clarifying brilliance of his style, and his compelling gift of narrative, he won an instant and apparently effortless success in the nineteenth century. The interpretation of English history which he gave became the standard interpretation for nearly a century: so universally accepted that we hardly realise the novelty which it once contained. Admittedly, that interpretation has now become unfashionable. But it can never be altogether rejected. Much of it – both in factual scholarship and in general interpretation – has become part of the permanent acquisition of historical...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Thomas Carlyle’s Historical Philosophy
    (pp. 223-245)

    Thomas Carlye was much more than a historian. He was man of letters, moralist, political preacher, prophet. Before turning to history, he wished to be a poet, began a novel and tried to write philosophy. Three times, before he was forty, he applied for professorial chairs: in aesthetics, moral philosophy, astronomy; but never in history. In the end, however, it was as a historian that he made his name. His three most substantial works –The French Revolution(1837),The Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell(1845), andThe Life of Frederick the Great(1858–65) – were historical. For...

  18. CHAPTER 13 Jacob Burckhardt
    (pp. 246-265)

    How does a historian qualify to be a mastermind? Not by mere professional competence: he must, of course, be professionally competent, but he must also rise above that modest virtue. He must be a general historian, and something of a philosopher. The great historians have always realised that history is not particular but general: that it is a continuum which cannot be understood in one age alone, and that the present, which is also a part of that continuum, is relevant to the past. Therefore they have always been conscious of the public problems of their own times: many of...

  19. Appendix: A Guide to Later Scholarship
    (pp. 266-274)
    John Robertson
  20. Notes
    (pp. 275-304)
  21. Index
    (pp. 305-314)