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'A chief standard work': The rise and fall of David Hume's 'History of England'. 1754-c.1900

Baverstock, James Andrew George; (1997) 'A chief standard work': The rise and fall of David Hume's 'History of England'. 1754-c.1900. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the influence of David Hume's History of England during the century of its greatest popularity. It explores how far the long-term fortunes of Hume's text matched his original aims for the work. Hume's success in creating a classic popular narrative is demonstrated, but is contrasted with the History's failure to promote the polite 'coalition of parties' he wished for. Whilst showing that Hume's popularity contributed to tempering some of the teleological excesses of the 'whig version' of English history, it is stressed that his work signally failed in dampening 'Whig'/'Tory' conflict. Rather than provide a new frame of reference for British politics, as Hume had intended, the History was absorbed into national political culture as a 'Tory' text - with important consequences for Hume's general reputation as a thinker. The twin themes, then, around which the thesis develops, are the reasons for the History's phenomenal success, and the party-politicised nature of its reputation. These developments are shown to have been closely related, and were both accentuated by the British reaction to the French Revolution. Hume's prominent role as a party totem in literary periodicals is highlighted, but his actual influence on early nineteenth-century 'Tory' historians is shown to have been shallow alongside varieties of Whig 'compromise' with his work, which are followed from late eighteenth-century compilation histories, through the works of Hallam and his contemporaries, to mid nineteenth-century children's histories. The decline in Whig/Tory partisanship in the literary world of the later nineteenth century is shown to have contributed to the History's declining relevance. Ironically, the 'Tory' reputation which frustrated Hume's supra-party intentions for his History can be seen to have been crucial in maintaining its central role in British political culture for over a century.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: 'A chief standard work': The rise and fall of David Hume's 'History of England'. 1754-c.1900
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Hume, David
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099932
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