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IDEOLOGY AND PARTIALITY IN DAVID HUME'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND Since its publication in 1754-62, critical assessments of David Hume's History of England can be broadly divided into three phases. During Hume's lifetime the history was, on the whole, favorably received. It is true the first volume, treating the early Stuarts, met initially with a cold reception. The London booksellers, resentful of the History's Scottish publishers, waged a successful campaign to stifle its commercial success. And the sympathetic portrait which Hume drew of the Stuarts, especially Charles I, precipitated a round of rebuttals against this "Tory" historian. Nevertheless, Hume's succeeding volumes met with a far kinder fate, and the complete history, ten years after the Stuart volume appeared, had already established itself as by far the most popular history of England ever written. Even from Hume's detractors there was widespread praise for his literary grace and narrative clarity. And the response from the Continent was enthusiastic. Voltaire's rapturous assessment echoed the views of many: Nothing can be added to the fame of this history, perhaps the best ever written in any language.... Mr. Hume, in his History, is neither Parliamentarian nor Royalist, nor Anglican nor Presbyterian — he is simply judicial.1 The learned Whig histories of Henry Hallam and George Brodie slightly dimmed the splendor of Hume's reputation in the early nineteenth century until Macaulay finally eclipsed it in popularity. Macaulay accused Hume of being more an advocate than an historian, and in the nineteenth century Whig epoch of Macaulay, Froude, Green and Gardiner, Hume's History of England was generally denigrated as an old fashioned Tory history, based upon a superficial and tendentious reading of the sources. As the Whig interpretation of history came under fire in the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century, Hume's reputation was gradually and partially rehabilitated. Thomas Preston Peardon, in his 1933 historiographical study of the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century, criticized Hume for his narrowly political focus and Tory slant. But he concluded that "fundamentally his position rested upon a philosophical reading of a given historical situation, not upon a selection of facts to serve the ends of a party." 2 as early as 1941 Ernest Mossner argued that Hume was not, in fact, a Tory historian; and in his 1954 biography he praised the History for its "broad sweeping narrative of the national developments, philosophically coherent, artistically ordered, and preeminently readable."^ But the big réévaluation of Hume has only taken place in the 1960s and '70s.4 In 1965 the intellectual historian Richard Popkin classified Hume as a philosophical historian par excellence, a skeptical mind who stood above the clerical and partisan passions of the age. Constant Nobel Stockton in the 1970s praised Hume for exploding Whig myths of the ancient constitution and for integrating a science of man into the traditional political chronicle; among other things the History of England was a pioneering work of economic history. Victor Wexler published an article in 1976 with the revelatory title of "David Hume's Discovery of a New Science of Historical Thought." Wexler pictured Hume as an embattled philosophe, brandishing his pen against the accumulated falsehood of party historiography, particularly Whig historiography . Hume, he submitted, had utilized his sources in a critical fashion which modern scholarship would find acceptable. Similarly, John J. Burke, Jr. interpreted Hume's History as a brilliant refutation of "dogmatic" Whiggery. The most thoroughgoing and influential rehabilitation of Hume's historical writing has come from Duncan Forbes, first in a long introduction to the Penguin edition of Hume's early Stuart volume (1970), 5 then in a book on Hume's political philosophy (1975). Forbes rates the History of England nothing short of "a masterpiece; it is essential and vintage Hume."6 He sees Hume's historical writing, especially his narrative English history, as the key to Hume's "philosophical politics." According to Forbes, Hume wanted not simply to discredit the conventional party histories but to provide a historical work of political moderation that would help harmonize the pointless political and ideological divisions that continue to bedevil the state. Above all, this meant weaning the Whigs away...


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