Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yes, but are those later generations ever the more superficial?

"it is one of the ironies of history that those issues which once seemed so important as to justify their defence with the sacrifice of life itself should in time come to seem to later generations irrelevant."

Maurice Lindsay, History of Scottish literature (London:  Robert Hale, 1977), 128, as quoted by Barton Swaim, "Reasons for Latin," Times literary supplement, 15 January 2010, 24, but verified.  The sentence preceding, the one that opens the chapter, runs as follows:  "The seventeenth century, with its long and bitter periods of religious struggle--family divided against family, maintaining attitudes of bigotry and intolerance--is not an age upon which Scots can reasonably look back with much pride."
Yet in this same issue of the TLS is a review by Jonathan Clark entitled, "Did Butterfield write in vain?"  (Peter Burke, in the new and revised (1988) edition of the Harper dictionary of modern thought, defines the "Whig interpretation of history" identified by Butterfield as "the tendency of historians to see the past as the story of the conflict between progressives and reactionaries, in which the progressives, or Whigs, win and so bring about the modern world.")