George III and the Historians

George III and the Historians

George III and the Historians

George III and the Historians

Excerpt

So much has been said in recent decades about the earlier historians of George III--and so much of this has been to their detriment--that in fairness to them we ought to do more than merely glance at them obliquely; we ought to set out to gain a clearer idea of what they actually wrote. If we survey the history of the historiography of this whole subject, learning not merely the attitude of the year 1900 to George III, but the attitude also of 1860 and 1800, for example, we can give our knowledge something like a new dimension, rescuing it somewhat from time and fashion, and coming as close as we are likely to come to the vision that is sub specie æteritatis. Following the various historians in succession, we can see the subject as a developing theme; we can find how errors arose; and we can discover how in different periods new historical outlooks are liable to emerge. George III can be disengaged more effectually from the impressionism of any particular observer, the caprice of any particular historian, or the prejudices of any particular period. By examining the history of the historiography, we can acquire even a better appreciation of the state of scholarship at the present day. We can distinguish what is really original in the work of more recent writers. And we can discern more easily what requires to be done next.

The results of such a study would compile themselves into a measureless amorphous mass if the topic itself did not have an essential core, or if it could not be resolved into a hard piece of subject-matter, amenable to analytical treatment. Fortunately, in the case of George III, there exists a problem which is precise and strategic, and upon which the whole issue can be focused--a problem upon which much of the controversy has been concentrated ever since the serious historical reconstruction of the . . .

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