The Social Circulation of the Past

Michael Hunter | Published in
  • The Social Circulation of the Past: English Historical Culture 1500-1730 Daniel Woolf
    Oxford University Press  xvii + 421pp  £55
    ISBN:  0 19 9257787.

Studies of early modern views of the past have long been dominated by emphasis on the great scholars celebrated as innovators in historical method, like John Selden, Edward Gibbon or William Camden, author of the influential Britannia (1586). By contrast, Daniel Woolf seeks in this dense and informative work to shift the emphasis away from such figures towards attitudes to the past in society as a whole. He argues that famous historians and antiquaries like these depended on an infrastructure in the form of networks of lesser figures who supplied data that they used, and who also provided a critical and receptive audience for their writings – hence the concept of the ‘social circulation’ of the past encapsulated in the book’s title.

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