The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The first Whig historian

"Whig history" is not historiography in the sense of finding out what happened. Whig history presupposes a view of the world, which progresses from an earlier time which was bad, to a chosen regime which is the pinnacle of human achievement. Fukuyama thought that this last regime would be the socialist / capitalist democratic state, which America exemplifies. Marxists could point to other examples.

Whig history is bad history, and is a term of abuse among real historians. Real historians view history as, uh, history - Herodotus's "research", into what most likely happened. Questions about what "should" happen, the historian leaves to philosophy departments. But other historians have their own biases, such that not every volume of Whig history necessarily looks bad in comparison.

I would say the first Whig historian was the Deuteronomist. Baruch Halpern points out that the book of Judges contains anecdotes of antiquarian interest, which do not have moral weight; such that their compiler acted as an honest historian. However the compiler also cast moral arguments into the narrative - the arguments of the book of Deuteronomy. Halpern concludes that although the Deuteronomist wasn't writing an objective history, his work was the first work of history in Western culture. Other works of history, by (say) the Greeks, had their own agendas. What makes this a "Whig" history is the progression of Israel from its Egyptian bondage to the theocratic glory of King Josiah.

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posted by Zimri on 15:35 | link | 0 comments

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