The Science of History in Victorian Britain

Making the Past Speak

New attitudes towards history in nineteenth-century Britain saw a rejection of romantic, literary techniques in favour of a professionalized, scientific methodology. The development of history as a scientific discipline was undertaken by several key historians of the Victorian period, influenced by German scientific history and British natural philosophy. This study examines parallels between the professionalization of both history and science at the time, which have previously been overlooked. Hesketh challenges accepted notions of a single scientific approach to history. Instead, he draws on a variety of sources—monographs, lectures, correspondence—from eminent Victorian historians to uncover numerous competing discourses.

about the author

Ian Hesketh

Ian Hesketh is an Australia Research Council Future Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. He is the author of Of Apes and Ancestors: Evolution, Christianity, and the Oxford Debate, The Science of History in Victorian Britain, and, most recently, Victorian Jesus: J. R. Seeley, Religion, and the Cultural Significance of Anonymity.

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Ian Hesketh