Of the many books written by the late Herbert Butterfield, the most influential by far was The whig interpretation of history. The importance of that essay is not just that it attained the status of a classic in Butterfield's own lifetime, and has continued to be reprinted for over fifty years. Its main significance is that the historical profession in Britain came to accept its polemical terminology. The phrase ‘whig history’ has long been used as a term of historiographical criticism, in such a way as to imply, firstly, that everyone knows what it means, and secondly, that nobody wants to be ‘whiggish’. This usage is much in accordance with Butterfield's intentions: he succeeded in implanting the term in the professional language of historians.
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