Historiography: Whig Approaches

Optimism in the present or signifcant past gives rise to the impression that what took place before it led to it, either by design or at least the conditions for good fortune. This was certainly the case with the settlement of 1688 (William III invited to take the throne) and the Toleration Act of 1689. The political party which brought about this political settlement was the Whig Party.
Agriculture and slavery were producing profits that were starting to finance early attempts at industry. The navy had become stronger with significant victories under its belt. Britain was becoming an imperial power. So history which sees progress is called Whig history, even if it outside of the Whig Party period.
This approach to history rose and fell with other liberal and optimistic movements, battered first by the First World War and then by the 1930s, as well as by the horrors within the Second World War.
The narratives of history are not "out there" in a line of purposeful progress but are put on to history. These happen because of what writers do in joining the dots of events. People like to see patterns but they are often a form of deception. Historians perhaps indulge themselves in making these judgments of the past running onward and upwards, and history whether inductive or deductive has to be more investigative, critical and refined, free of sweeping assumptions.

Some Personalities

Dates in brackets are lifspans.

Adrian Worsfold



Johnson, R (2002), Studying History: A Practical Guide to Successful Essay-Writing, Seminars, Assignments and Exams, Taunton: Studymates, 43-44.