The Historical Happening

Donald Watt cautions against a history which abandons the study of historical realities in favour of intellectual abstractions.

‘In the first draft of his memorial for Sir John Wheeler-Bennett for the British Academy, the memorialist included a passage to the effect that Sir John’s brand of history, with its concentration on the role of the individual in history, was one out of fashion with the younger school of historians today. This passage was toned down in the final draft after protest that there were many younger historians, especially those who studied the history of international relations in the twentieth century, who continued to share, if not to develop, Sir John’s approach to history. The memorialist accepted this correction as a an accurate description of an element in contemporary British historiography; but his comments clearly indicated that he thought this a survival from the past and the proponents of the personal approach to history somewhat analogous to the coelacanth in their survival from an older more single-minded geological past

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