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Making HistoryEdward Augustus Freeman and Victorian Cultural Politics$
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G.A. Bremner and Jonathan Conlin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265871

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265871.001.0001

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A Liberal Descent? E. A. Freeman’s Invention of Racial Traditions

A Liberal Descent? E. A. Freeman’s Invention of Racial Traditions

(p.199) 11 A Liberal Descent? E. A. Freeman’s Invention of Racial Traditions
Making History

Theodore Koditschek

British Academy

This essay explores some of the ways in which E. A. Freeman’s 19th-century political investments shaped his approach to history. Like other liberals, Freeman read history as the story of progress. But it was racial more than material progress that drove his vision of history forward. For Freeman, the superiority of Aryans over other races, of Teutons over other Aryans, and of Anglo-Saxons over other Teutons was the product of their respective histories. Paradoxically, it was the Anglo-Saxons’ penchant for racial purity that especially fitted them for their career of political evolution and institutional hybridity. For this reason Freeman was inclined to see Britain’s 19th-century empire as a trap, luring the superior Anglo-Saxons into the temptation of miscegenation, wasting their strength in missionary outreach to savages, and into an enervating alliance with the hated Ottoman Turk. His Comparative Politics (1873), Historical Geography of Europe (1881), and History of Sicily (1891–4) were all warnings in this regard.

Keywords:   Edward Augustus Freeman, racial conception of history, Aryan, Anglo-Saxon, political institutions, Turkey, Jews

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