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Gladstone, Development and the Discipline of History, 1840-1896

Gladstone, Development and the Discipline of History, 1840-1896
Gladstone, Development and the Discipline of History, 1840-1896

Between 1885 and 1891, the Liberal statesman William Ewart Gladstone debated the scientific status of the Book of Genesis with the natural historian Thomas Henry Huxley in a series of articles published in the Nineteenth Century. Viewed in isolation, this episode has been seen as a case of a professional scientist dismissing an amateur interloper. This article repositions this familiar dispute as one chapter in Gladstone's lifelong engagement with the concept of historical 'development', the unfolding or evolution of Providence to human reason over time, a concept which came to prominence in the 1840s, in both Tractarian theology and in natural history. Gladstone consistently advocated an accommodation between transmutation and natural theology based on a probabilist ontology derived from the eighteenth-century Anglican churchman Joseph Butler (1692-1752). That understanding of historical truth to which Gladstone credited his ability to discern when political issues became ripe for agitation demanded a humble, Christian moral temper that embraced doubt and salutary suffering, rather than certainty and whiggish celebration of progress.

0018-246X
911-934
Conlin, Jonathan
3ab58a7d-d74b-48d9-99db-1ba2f3aada40
Conlin, Jonathan
3ab58a7d-d74b-48d9-99db-1ba2f3aada40

Conlin, Jonathan (2020) Gladstone, Development and the Discipline of History, 1840-1896. The Historical Journal, 63 (4), 911-934. (doi:10.1017/S0018246X19000578).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Between 1885 and 1891, the Liberal statesman William Ewart Gladstone debated the scientific status of the Book of Genesis with the natural historian Thomas Henry Huxley in a series of articles published in the Nineteenth Century. Viewed in isolation, this episode has been seen as a case of a professional scientist dismissing an amateur interloper. This article repositions this familiar dispute as one chapter in Gladstone's lifelong engagement with the concept of historical 'development', the unfolding or evolution of Providence to human reason over time, a concept which came to prominence in the 1840s, in both Tractarian theology and in natural history. Gladstone consistently advocated an accommodation between transmutation and natural theology based on a probabilist ontology derived from the eighteenth-century Anglican churchman Joseph Butler (1692-1752). That understanding of historical truth to which Gladstone credited his ability to discern when political issues became ripe for agitation demanded a humble, Christian moral temper that embraced doubt and salutary suffering, rather than certainty and whiggish celebration of progress.

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Accepted/In Press date: 12 November 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 21 January 2020
Published date: 1 September 2020
Additional Information: Publisher Copyright: © 2020 Cambridge University Press.

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 435910
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/435910
ISSN: 0018-246X
PURE UUID: 8b5da4b7-8566-411a-a491-52e43e6405c7
ORCID for Jonathan Conlin: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0394-4931

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Date deposited: 22 Nov 2019 17:30
Last modified: 02 Aug 2022 01:40

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