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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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Habits of Thought and Judgement: E. A. Freeman on Historical Methods

Habits of Thought and Judgement: E. A. Freeman on Historical Methods

(p.273) 15 Habits of Thought and Judgement: E. A. Freeman on Historical Methods
Making History

Herman Paul

British Academy

Why did E. A. Freeman’s The Methods of Historical Study (1886) meet with mostly negative responses from late 19th-century American and Continental European historians? This essay argues that while Freeman adopted the language of ‘historical methods’ that was becoming customary in the 1880s, he did not understand the term to refer to techniques of source criticism, as many of his contemporaries did, but to a comparative method firmly rooted in Thomas Arnold’s unity of history doctrine. Confusingly, then, Freeman’s method promoted a philosophy of history of the kind that, by the 1880s, was increasingly rejected in the name of historical method. It is not without irony, therefore, that The Methods of Historical Study was sometimes mistaken for a methodology manual like Ernst Bernheim’s Lehrbuch der historischen Methode (1889) and as such found wanting by historians interested in the newest techniques of source criticism.

Keywords:   Edward Augustus Freeman, John Martin Vincent, Ernst Bernheim, Thomas Arnold, historical method, comparative method, source criticism, historiography, Victorian intellectual history

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