Skip to main content
Historicism and the Human Sciences in Victorian Britain
  • Edited by Mark Bevir, University of California, Berkeley

  • Export citation
  • Recommend to librarian
  • Recommend this book

    Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

    Historicism and the Human Sciences in Victorian Britain
    • Online ISBN: 9781316711286
    • Book DOI:
    Please enter your name
    Please enter a valid email address
    Who would you like to send this to? *
  • Buy the print book

Book description

Historicism and the Human Sciences in Victorian Britain explores the rise and nature of historicist thinking about such varied topics as life, race, character, literature, language, economics, empire, and law. The contributors show that the Victorians typically understood life and society as developing historically in a way that made history central to their intellectual inquiries and their public culture. Although their historicist ideas drew on some Enlightenment themes, they drew at least as much on organic ideas and metaphors in ways that lent them a developmental character. This developmental historicism flourished alongside evolutionary motifs and romantic ideas of the self. The human sciences were approached through narratives, and often narratives of reason and progress. Life, individuals, society, government, and literature all unfolded gradually in accord with underlying principles, such as those of rationality, nationhood, and liberty. This book will appeal to those interested in Victorian Britain, historiography, and intellectual history.

    • Aa
    • Aa
Refine List
Actions for selected content:
Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Send to Kindle
  • Send to Dropbox
  • Send to Google Drive
  • Send content to

    To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to .

    To send content to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

    Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

    Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

    Please be advised that item(s) you selected are not available.
    You are about to send:

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.
C. Rand , “Two Meanings of Historicism in the Writings of Dilthey, Troeltsch, and Meinecke,” Journal of the History of Ideas 25 (1964), 503–18

J. Cho , “The Crisis of Historicism and Troeltsch’s Europeanism,” History of European Ideas 21 (1995), 195207

M. Osler , “Mixing Metaphors: Science and Religion or Natural Philosophy and Theology in Early Modern Europe,” History of Science 36 (1997), 91113

S. Schaffer , “Scientific Discoveries and the End of Natural Philosophy,” Social Studies of Science 16 (1986), 387420

A. Jarrels , “‘Associations Respect[ing] the Past’: Enlightenment and Romantic Historicism,” in J. Klancher , ed., A Concise Companion to the Romantic Age (Oxford: Blackwells, 2009), pp. 5776

S. Bourgault and R. Sparling , A Companion to Enlightenment Historiography (Leiden: Brill, 2013)

C. Packham , Eighteenth-Century Vitalism: Bodies, Culture, Politics (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)

M. Bevir , “The Long Nineteenth Century in Intellectual History,” Journal of Victorian Culture 6 (2001), 313–35

D. Forbes , The Liberal Anglican Historians (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952)

P. Blaas , Continuity and Anachronism: Parliamentary and Constitutional Development in Whig Historiography and in the Anti-Whig Reaction between 1890 and 1930 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1978)

J. Morrow , Coleridge’s Political Thought (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1990)

D. Hedley , Coleridge, Philosophy and Religion: Aids to Reflection and the Mirror of the Spirit (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

M. Bevir , “A Humanist Critique of the Archaeology of the Human Sciences,” History of the Human Sciences 15 (2002), 119–38

R. Richards , The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002)

T. Wright , The Religion of Humanity: The Impact of Comtean Positivism on Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

N. Capaldi , John Stuart Mill: A Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

J. Moore , The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979)

S. Collini , “The Idea of ‘Character’ in Victorian Political Thought,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 35 (1985), 2950

J. Guy , The Victorian Social Problem Novel (London: Macmillan, 1996)

L. Goldman , Science, Reform and Politics in Victorian Britain: The Social Science Association, 1857–1886 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)

P. Schofield , “Jeremy Bentham and Nineteenth Century English Jurisprudence,” Journal of Legal History 12 (1991), 5888

W. Everdell , First Moderns (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997)

D. Ross , The Origins of American Social Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), chaps. 8–10

J. Stapleton , Englishness and the Study of Politics: The Social and Political Thought of Ernest Barker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

Peter J. Bowler , “Revisiting the Eclipse of Darwinism,” Journal of the History of Biology 38 (2005), 22

Bernard Lightman , “Darwin and the Popularization of Evolution,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society 64 (2010), 524

Michael Bartholomew , “Huxley’s Defence of Darwin,” Annals of Science 32 (1975), 525–35

James G. Lennox , “Darwin Was a Teleologist”, Biology and Philosophy 8 (1993), 410, 416–17

T. H. Huxley , “Past and Present,” Nature 51 (November 1894), 13

R. Kenny , ‘From the Curse of Ham to the Curse of Nature: The Influence of Natural Selection on the Debate on Human Unity before the Publication of The Descent of Man’, British Journal for the History of Science 40 (2007), 363–88

E. Sera-Shriar , ‘Observing Human Difference: James Hunt, Thomas Huxley and Competing Disciplinary Strategies in the 1860s’, Annals of Science 70 (2013), 461–91

C. Darwin , The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 2 vols. (London: John Murray, 1871)

H. F. Augstein , James Cowles Prichard’s Anthropology: Remaking the Science of Man in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain (Amsterdam: Rodopi BV, 1999)

J. C. Prichard , Researches into the Physical History of Mankind, 3rd edn., 5 vols. (London: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, 1836–47)

J. Goodfield-Toulmin , ‘Some Aspects of English Physiology: 1780–1840’, Journal of the History of Biology 2 (1969), 283320

L. S. Jacyna , ‘Immanence or Transcendence: Theories of Life and Organisation in Britain, 1790–1835’, Isis 74 (1983), 311–29

G. Cantor , Quakers, Jews and Science: Religious Responses to Modernity and the Sciences in Britain 1650–1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 133–8

S. Qureshi , Peoples on Parade: Exhibitions, Empire and Anthropology in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011), pp. 186–7

M. Rudwick , The Great Devonian Controversy: The Shaping of Scientific Knowledge among Gentlemanly Specialists (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1985)

R. O’Connor , The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802–1856 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007)

A. Secord , ‘Corresponding Interests: Artisans and Gentlemen in Nineteenth-Century Natural History’, British Journal for the History of Science 27 (1994), 383408

E. Sera-Shriar , ‘Ethnology in the Metropole: Robert Knox, Robert Gordon Latham and Local Sites of Observational Training’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (2011), 486–96

E. Richards , ‘The “Moral Anatomy” of Robert Knox: The Interplay between Biological and Social Thought in Victorian Scientific Naturalism’, Journal of the History of Biology 22 (1989), 373436

J. Hunt , ‘On Physio-Anthropology, Its Aim and Method’, Journal of the Anthropological Society of London 5 (1867), ccxii.

R. Yeo , ‘Scientific Method and the Rhetoric of Science in Britain 1830–1917’, in J. Schuster and R. Yeo , eds., The Politics and Rhetoric of Scientific Method (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1986), pp. 259–97

J. Hunt , ‘Introductory Address on the Study of Anthropology’, Anthropological Review 1 (1863), 2

J. Hunt , ‘On the Doctrine of Continuity Applied to Anthropology’, Anthropological Review 5 (1867), 111–2

J. Hunt , ‘On the Application of the Principle of Natural Selection to Anthropology, in Reply to the Views Advocated by Some of Mr Darwin’s Disciples’, Anthropological Review 4 (1866), 320–40

E. Caudill , ‘The Bishop-Eaters: The Publicity Campaign for Darwin and on the Origin of Species’, Journal of the History of Ideas 55 (1994), 441–60

B. Lightman , Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007), pp. 359–61

M. Bartholomew , ‘Huxley’s Defense of Darwin’, Annals of Science 32 (1975), 525–35

Frans van Coetsem , ‘Grimm’s Law: A Reappraisal of Grimm’s Formulation from a Present-day Perspective’, in Elmer H. Antonsen , James W. Marchand and Ladislav Zgusta , eds., The Grimm Brothers and the Germanic Past [Studies in the History of the Language Sciences 54] (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1990), 4360

Peter H. Matthews , Grammatical Theory in the United States from Bloomfield to Chomsky (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)

Marcus Tomalin , Linguistics and the Formal Sciences: The Origins of Generative Grammar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Richard J. Watts , Language Myths and the History of English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), chapter 4

David Simpson introduces the phrase in his article ‘Literary Criticism and the Return to History’, Critical Inquiry 14:4 (Summer 1988), 721–47

Paul Keen , The Crisis of Literature in the 1790s: Print Culture and the Public Sphere (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Maureen McLane , Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 1013

Jon Klancher , Transfiguring the Arts and Sciences: Knowledge and Cultural Institutions in the Romantic Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Luisa Calè and Adriana Craciun , “The Disorder of Things,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, 45: 1 (2011), 113.

Monique R. Morgan , “Narrative Means to Lyric Ends in Wordsworth’s Prelude,” Narrative 16: 3 (2008), 298330.

Rüdiger Campe , “Form and Life in the Theory of the Novel,” Constellations 18: 1 (2011), 53

Martin Rudwick , Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005)

Noah Heringman , Sciences of Antiquity: Romantic Antiquarianism, Natural History and Knowledge Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Hina Nazar , “The Continental Eliot,” in A Companion to George Eliot, ed. Amanda Anderson and Harry E. Shaw (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 417–18

Marsha L. Richmond , “Thomas Huxley’s Developmental View of the Cell,” Nature Reviews 3 (2002), 61–5 (p. 64)

Richmond ’s more detailed statement of her argument, “T. H. Huxley’s Criticism of German Cell Theory: An Epigenetic and Physiological Interpretation of Cell Structure,” Journal of the History of Biology 33: 2 (2000), 247–89

L. S. Jacyna , “The Romantic Programme and the Reception of Cell Theory in Britain,” Journal of the History of Biology 17: 1 (1984), 13–48 (pp. 1920, 15)

Ian Duncan , “George Eliot’s Science Fiction,” Representations 125 (2014), 26–7

S. Collini , “The Idea of ‘Character’ in Victorian Political Thought,” 35 Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (1985), pp. 2950

L. Goodlad , Victorian Literature and the Victorian State: Character and Governance in a Liberal Society (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2003)

R. J. Morris , “Samuel Smiles and the Genesis of Self-Help; The Retreat to Petit Bourgeois Utopia,” 24.1 The Historical Journal (1981), p. 91

D. Malachuk , “Romola and Victorian Liberalism,” 36.1 Victorian Literature and Culture (March 2008), p. 42

L. Goodlad , Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic: Realism, Sovereignty and Transnational Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

S. K. Weiner , Republic Politics and English Poetry, 1789–1874 (London: Palgrave, 2005)

J. Saville , “‘Soul-Talk’: Networks of Political Poetry in a Trans-Channel Literary Triangle,” 55.2 Victorian Studies (2013), pp. 299308

G. Stocking , “The Turn-of-the-Century Concept of Race,” 1.1 Modernism/Modernity (1994), p. 6

F. Galton , Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development (New York: Macmillan, 1883), p. 25

A. S. Wohl , “Dizzi-Ben-Dizzi: Disraeli as Alien,” 34.3 Journal of British Studies (July 1995), pp. 375411

Eckhardt Fuchs , ‘Contemporary Alternatives to German Historicism in the Nineteenth Century’ in Stuart Macintyre , Juan Maiguashca and Attila Pók eds., The Oxford History of Historical Writing, 4: 1800–1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 5977

Peter Novick , That Noble Dream: the “objectivity question” and the American historical profession (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988)

Robert E. Sullivan , Macaulay: the tragedy of power (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009)

Frederick C. Beiser , The German Historicist Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

James Kirby ’s important study, Historians and the Church of England: religion and historical scholarship, 1870–1920 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)

T. R. Wright , The Religion of Humanity: the impact of Comtean Positivism in Victorian Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

Christopher Parker , ‘English Historians and the Opposition to Positivism’, History and Theory 22 (1983), 120–45

Stuart Jones , Intellect and Character in Victorian England: Mark Pattison and the invention of the don (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Duncan Forbes , The Liberal Anglican Theory of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952)

Frank M. Turner , ‘Ancient Materialism and Modern Science: Lucretius among the Victorians’ in Contesting Cultural Authority: essays in Victorian intellectual life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 262–83

J. E. Kirby , ‘An Ecclesiastical Descent: religion and history in the works of William Stubbs’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 65 (2014), 84110

Paul Thompson , William Butterfield (London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1971)

Owen Chadwick , Acton and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Doris S. Goldstein , ‘J.B. Bury’s Philosophy of History: a reappraisal’, American Historical Review 82 (1977), 896919

B. W. Young , The Victorian Eighteenth Century: an intellectual history (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 103–47

Jane Garnett , ‘Protestant Histories: James Anthony Froude, partisanship and national identity’ in Peter Ghosh and Lawrence Goldman eds., Politics and Culture in Victorian Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 271–91

Ciaran Brady , James Anthony Froude: an intellectual biography of a Victorian prophet (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)

Geoffrey M. Hodgson , How Economics Forgot History: The Problem of Historical Specificity in Social Science (Routledge, 2001)

Fredrik Albritton Jonsson , “Cornucopianism: A Preliminary Genealogy,” Critical Historical Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 2014), 151–68

Fredrik Albritton Jonsson , Enlightenment’s Frontier: The Scottish Highlands and the Origins of Environmentalism (Yale University Press, 2013), pp. 188–95, 227–31

Salim Rashid , “Richard Jones and Baconian Historicism at Cambridge,” Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 13, No. 1 (March 1979), 159–73

Jonathan H. Turner , “Explaining the Social World: Historicism versus Positivism,” The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Summer 2006), 461

Hiram Caton , “The Preindustrial Economics of Adam Smith,” The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 45, No. 4 (December 1985), 833–53

Willie Henderson , “Harriet Martineau or When Political Economy Was Popular,” History of Education: Journal of the History of Education Society, Vol. 21, No. 4 (1992), 383403

Graham A. Macdonald , “The Politics of the Golden River: Ruskin on Environment and the Stationary State,” Environment and History, Vol. 18 (2012), 125–50

Peter Thorsheim , Inventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke and Culture in Britain since 1800 (Ohio University Press, 2006), pp. 45–7

Nunu Luis Madureira , “The Anxiety of Abundance: Stanley Jevons and Coal Scarcity in the Nineteenth Century,” Environment and History, Vol. 18 (2012), 395421

Johan Rockström et al., “Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity,” Ecology and Society, Vol. 14, No. 2 (2009),

Will Steffen , Paul Crutzen , and John McNeill , “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature,” AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, Vol. 36, No. 8 (2007), 849–52

Bevir , ‘Political Studies as Narrative and Science, 1880–2000’, Political Studies, 54 (2006), 583606

Tamsin Pietsche , Empire of Scholars: Universities, Networks and the British Academic World, 1850–1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013)

John Burrow , A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981)

David Armitage , ‘Empire and Liberty: A Republican Dilemma’ in Martin van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner , eds., Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), II, pp. 2946

J. G. A. Pocock , Barbarism and Religion, Vol. 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Hell , ‘The Twin Towers of Anselm Kiefer and the Trope of Imperial Decline’, Germanic Review, 84/1 (2009), 86

Duncan Bell , ‘John Stuart Mill on Colonies’, Political Theory, 38 (2010), 3464

P. J. Cain , ‘Character, “Ordered Liberty”, and the Mission to Civilise: British Moral Justification for Empire, 1870–1914’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 40/4 (2012), 557–78

Michael Adas , ‘Contested Hegemony: The Great War and the Afro-Asian Assault on the Civilizing Mission Ideology’, Journal of World History, 15/1 (2004), 3163

Nabulsi , Traditions of War: Occupation, Resistance and the Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Robertson , ‘The Moral Problems of War’, International Journal of Ethics, 11/3 (1901), 283

Ritchie , ‘War and Peace’, International Journal of Ethics, 11/2 (1901), 137–58

Phiroze Vasunia , The Classics and Colonial India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)

Victoria Tietze Larson , ‘Classics and the Acquisition and Validation of Power in Britain’s ‘Imperial Century’ (1815–1914)’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 6/2 (1999), 211

Duncan Forbes , The Liberal Anglican Idea of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952)

Cromer , ‘History and Politics’, Classical Review, 24 (1910), 116

Duncan Bell , ‘Beyond the Sovereign State: Isopolitan Citizenship, Race, and Anglo-American Union’, Political Studies, 62/3 (2014), 418–34

Julia Hell and Andreas Schonle , eds., Ruins of Modernity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010)

Hell , ‘Katechon: Carl Schmitt’s Imperial Theology and the Ruins of the Future’, Germanic Review, 84 (2009), 284

Martti Koskenniemi , Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

Antony Anghie , Imperialism, Sovereignty, and the Making of Modern International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Brett Bowden , “The Colonial Origins of International Law: European Expansion and the Classical Standard of Civilization,” Journal of the History of International Law 7 (2005), pp. 123

Casper Sylvest , “‘Our Passion for Legality’: International Law and Imperialism in Late Nineteenth-Century Britain,” Review of International Studies 34 (2008), pp. 403–23

Sylvest , “The Foundations of Victorian International Law,” in Duncan Bell , ed., Victorian Visions of Global Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 4766

Sylvest , British Liberal Internationalism, 1880–1930: Making Progress? (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009)

Georgios Varouxakis has argued convincingly that civil war greatly heightened John Stuart Mill’s (and a broader English public’s) interest in international law, through celebrated cases such as the Trent and the Alabama; see his Liberty Abroad: John Stuart Mill on International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Carl Landauer , “From Status to Treaty: Henry Sumner Maine’s International Law,” Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 15 (2002): 219154

Martti Koskenniemi , “Into Positivism: Georg Friedrich von Martens (1756–1821) and Modern International Law,” Constellations 15 (2008), pp. 189207

Rumble , “Nineteenth-Century Perceptions of John Austin: Utilitarianism and the Reviews of The Province of Jurisprudence Determined,” Utilitas 3 (1991), pp. 199216

A. Diamond , ed., The Victorian Achievement of Sir Henry Maine: A Centennial Reappraisal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

Patrick Brantlinger , Taming Cannibals: Race and the Victorians (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 358 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 1074 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th April 2017 - 17th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.