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The longstanding association between the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) locus and schizophrenia (SZ) risk has recently been accounted for, partially, by structural variation at the complement component 4 (C4) gene. This structural variation generates varying levels of C4 RNA expression, and genetic information from the MHC region can now be used to predict C4 RNA expression in the brain. Increased predicted C4A RNA expression is associated with the risk of SZ, and C4 is reported to influence synaptic pruning in animal models.
Based on our previous studies associating MHC SZ risk variants with poorer memory performance, we tested whether increased predicted C4A RNA expression was associated with reduced memory function in a large (n = 1238) dataset of psychosis cases and healthy participants, and with altered task-dependent cortical activation in a subset of these samples.
We observed that increased predicted C4A RNA expression predicted poorer performance on measures of memory recall (p = 0.016, corrected). Furthermore, in healthy participants, we found that increased predicted C4A RNA expression was associated with a pattern of reduced cortical activity in middle temporal cortex during a measure of visual processing (p < 0.05, corrected).
These data suggest that the effects of C4 on cognition were observable at both a cortical and behavioural level, and may represent one mechanism by which illness risk is mediated. As such, deficits in learning and memory may represent a therapeutic target for new molecular developments aimed at altering C4’s developmental role.
A generation ago historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, in a review essay of John Burrow's A Liberal Descent, posed the question: ‘Who Now Reads Macaulay?’ Himmelfarb answered her question in the negative and at present that judgement still stands. An icon of English historiography for numerous reasons, it is nonetheless true that Macaulay's five volumes on The History of England from the Accession of James II (1848–61), impossibly popular in the nineteenth century, has lost its readership except for a small band of scholars. Often mentioned alongside Edward Gibbon and Frederic William Maitland among the greatest English historians, Macaulay has retained his reputation but not his readers. Paradoxical as this situation seems, it does not diminish the contribution that Macaulay made to the establishment of a national story, even if his narrative covered a relatively short time span.
One issue that touches all our historians is audience. Did they attract a broad spectrum of readers? A book, after all, may be purchased, put on a shelf and never read at all. Or a title might be read, loaned out and receive multiple readings. With respect to libraries, over the course of a decade or even a century, a volume may attract hundreds or even thousands of readers: ‘Since books can be read and reread by many people over long periods, statistics of titles printed or sold cannot be adequate surrogates for numbers of acts of reading’.
Like Trevelyan, Winston Churchill (1874–1965) was born into a highly privileged family, indeed one at the pinnacle of the aristocracy. But unlike Trevelyan, who was financially secure throughout his life from family money, Churchill had to make his own way. Imitating his parents, the flamboyant and impecunious Lord Randolph Churchill and the free-spending American heiress Jenny Jerome, he was beset throughout his life by one financial crisis after another. Temperamentally, the two men were poles apart, with the cautious, introverted Trevelyan embracing the quiet and seclusion of a well-ordered life, while Churchill loved society and lively company. The former's pastoralism and longing for simpler, less hectic times made him uncomfortable in the frenetic twentieth century, while Churchill relished the challenges of modern times. Both men held conservative views about government and society, but Trevelyan's were more rooted in an imagined, benign early Georgian social order, while Churchill celebrated the ability of the aristocracy and the upper classes to maintain a measure of authority into his own day.
Trevelyan's immersion in the quiet rigour of a scholarly existence was natural to him, while Churchill was clearly marked out for a vivid public life, one that was both contentious and (to use a term that frequently occurs in his written works), thrusting.
Overlapping T. B. Macaulay's History in dates of publication was one almost as popular, dealing with the heart of the Tudor era, from the middle of Henry VIII's reign to the latter stages of Elizabeth's. Its author, James Anthony Froude (1818–94), was born in Devon and educated at Westminster and Oriel College, Oxford. At Oxford, in part due to his elder brother Hurrell's influence, Froude fell within the orbit of the Oxford Movement, that Catholicizing trend within the Church of England that stressed the Church's antiquity, independence and ritual. John Henry Newman, the leading light of the movement, got Froude to undertake research for a planned book on the lives of the saints. The almost total lack of reliable evidence for the early centuries of Christianity fueled Froude's growing skepticism, precipitating his disengagement from the Oxford Movement and, for a while, from the Church of England itself. Developments in science, especially Robert Chambers's Vestiges of Creation (1844), caused Froude to question all dogmatic authority, and in 1848 he published his Nemesis of Faith. This ringing affirmation of the primacy of reason led to the loss of his Oriel College fellowship and the necessity of earning his livelihood. Froude turned his hand to writing historical sketches for various publications. His success with these pieces, together with an enduring interest in the exploits of the Elizabethan ‘sea dogs’ of his native county, led him to fasten upon history as the most suitable career.
In the past two decades the nature of English national identity has attracted a significant amount of both public and scholarly attention. Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair made plain in public speeches their opinions on the topic, parroting a patriotic version of English exceptionalism that few historians would now accept. They celebrated uncritically English achievements such as parliamentary government, the slow evolution towards democracy and the rule of law. Current public policy debates on the nature and purpose of history in the National Curriculum abound, focused on how and what should be taught about the national past. Peter Mandler, president of the Royal Historical Society, noted in 2013 that ‘all of the main professional bodies of historians have united in criticism of this draft’. This creates a dilemma because the legally enforced curriculum ‘is also used to explore concepts of nationhood, which operate in tension with people's history’. Meanwhile scholars have sought to locate identity in a wide variety of activities: from music to gardening, from patterns of foreign travel to constitutional achievements, from the cinema to imperial governance and a host of other categories. Even Prince Charles has weighed in on the subject in 2013, calling the English countryside the unacknowledged backbone of the nation's national identity.
In each of these areas, as well as all others, the definition of national identity possesses a historical aspect.
John Richard Green (1837–83), the author of the highly successful Short History of the English People (1874), was born in Oxford. The son of a maker of silk gowns for Fellows, he grew up in straitened circumstances in a strongly Tory and Anglican household. His small size and delicate health deprived him of normal boyhood activities, but he displayed an early passion for books and history. In 1852 he suffered the loss of both his father and his beloved elder sister, Adelaide. Placed under the domination of an ultra-conservative uncle who demanded constant gratitude and deference, Green rebelled by adopting outspokenly liberal viewpoints, evidenced in a school history essay sharply criticizing Charles I. Such defiance of the cult of the ‘royal martyr’ led to his expulsion in 1854 from Magdalen College School. His preparation for university was completed under the tutelage of James Ridgway and, more successfully, Charles Duke Yonge, later a professor of English at the University of Belfast.
Green managed to secure a scholarship to Jesus College, Oxford, then perhaps the least distinguished college in a university barely stirring from its pre-reform torpor. After beginning his studies there in 1856, he quickly became disillusioned, read widely on his own, wrote scathing satires of dons and fellow students and took a pass degree in 1859. Immediately afterward, he was commissioned by the editors of the Oxford Chronicle to write a series of articles on eighteenth-century Oxford life.
Compared to Victorian colleagues, Samuel Rawson Gardiner (1829–1902) did not generate much controversy about his scholarship nor has he retained the interest of posterity until recently. Gardiner lived a comparatively quiet life, with few friends inside or outside the history community and with no connections such as bound the triumvirate of Freeman, Green and Stubbs. Without the independence of a private income, after earning a degree at Christ Church College, Oxford in 1851, Gardiner made the study of English history, especially the seventeenth century, his life's work. Beginning with two volumes in 1863, Gardiner eventually covered the years 1603–56 in a total of eighteen volumes. The first volumes attracted little attention: the first two volumes originally sold only 100 copies and the next two just 500. Not until the 1880s did the ongoing work, either singly or in sets, earn their author any profit. Gardiner had finally drawn the attention of the public and the nascent historical profession.
Gardiner eventually became a professor at King's College, London in 1877. In 1882 he received a civil list pension of £150 annually from the Gladstone government and a research fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford worth another £200 per annum. At this point his financial situation stabilized sufficiently to ensure the continuation of his work. When this All Souls stipend ended, Merton College, Oxford elected him to another fellowship.
William Stubbs (1825–1901) enjoyed success in several careers, any one of which would have made him a model cleric or scholar. As an Anglican clergyman he eventually became Bishop of Chester and later Bishop of Oxford. Between 1864 and 1889, as an editor Stubbs contributed nearly twenty titles to the Rolls Series, an enterprise inaugurated in 1857 to publish manuscripts that illuminated the country's medieval history. Stubbs provided introductions to these volumes that were themselves significant essays. It was as historian that Stubbs gained his place among the luminaries of Victorian historiography, for his Constitutional History attained a fame and influence that even now has not entirely vanished. The great legal historian Frederic Maitland declared that he had read the three volumes at a club in London ‘because it was interesting’. Although Maitland travelled a different scholarly path, his opinion, considering the intellectual stature he attained, has remained perhaps the greatest compliment that Stubbs ever received. From its initial edition the Constitutional History acquired a prominence that spread well beyond the confines of academe.
John Burrow wrote of Stubbs's History that it was ‘one of the great books, in fact, of the nineteenth century’, a judgement with which we agree without reservation. His work rescued the study of medieval history from the blinkered conclusions of antiquarians and placed its study on a firm erudite basis:
Unlike Hume, whose fame lasted throughout his life and up to the present, Catharine Macaulay had, as Bridget Hill observed, just fifteen years of positive public notice, followed by years of contentiousness as she entered directly and vigorously into the political debates of the age. She was celebrated as ‘Dame Thucydides’ and painted and sculpted as Clio and other classical figures upon the publication of the first five volumes of her eight-volume History of England from the Accession of James I to that of the Brunswick Line (1763–71). But a ten-year hiatus before the final three volumes of her history appeared between 1781 and 1783 was disastrous to both her personal and literary reputation. A series of unconventional actions and involvements, including taking as her second husband a man twenty-six years her junior, exacted a heavy toll on her public standing. In the salacious and scandal-obsessed atmosphere of the period, this led inevitably to mockery from Grub Street hacks and society wits alike. Her republican views and pro-American stance as the American Revolution unfolded also brought about widespread criticism, save by a relatively small number of radical supporters in Britain, though she continued to enjoy the support of many leading Americans. Major British Whigs, who had found in the pages of her early volumes a ringing justification of their policies and programmes, turned against her.
When the volumes of David Hume's The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688 appeared in print between 1754 and 1762, they were oft en read and appraised through the lens of contemporary political and religious divisions. While this was true to some extent about all historical works written in the period, it was especially true for Hume, who chose to write his history backwards, beginning with the most recent era, that of the Stuart dynasty. When the first volume was published in 1754, it bore the title The History of Great Britain. Only with the appearance of later volumes dealing with earlier historical periods was the title of the collected volumes changed to The History of England. Hume decided to start in 1603 rather than 1485 because, as he explained to Adam Smith:
Twas under James that the House of Commons began first to raise their Head, and then the Quarrel betwixt Privilege and Prerogative commenca'd … and the Factions, which then arose, having an influence on our present Affairs, form the most curious, interesting, and instructive Part of our History.
His sympathetic treatment of Charles I, criticism of rebel leaders during the Civil War, and disparaging of ‘fanatical’ Puritans, brought down the wrath of radical Whigs upon his head. Conversely, Tories were pleased, though it did not escape their notice that Hume was far from endorsing their most cherished doctrines.
A national narrative expresses a country's exceptionalism, recounts its history in salutary fashion and both appeals to and generates patriotism in its citizenry. In the current curricular debate in the United Kingdom, the Royal Historical Society posed the challenge that all history teachers face: ‘Should the History curriculum provide students with a greater sense of a national narrative or should the teaching of history focus on gaining skills and understanding concepts?’ These objectives are not mutually exclusive, but the query pertains to the crux of what history instruction should envision and how this relates to the way the past is remembered. The English national narrative, in part due to the efforts of historians discussed in this work, blended patriotism and social stability by 1950: ‘During the first half of the twentieth century, English history was widely regarded as an exemplary narrative of achievement, heroism and sacrifice’. As appealing as this depiction became, discourse about the English past was never this simple and always contested. Just as the English past defined national greatness for some, it also caused anxiety for others who worried about decline from an idealized history.
One major topic within the tradition of specifying national identity drawn from the past concentrated on the English Reformation. Whether regarded as an event or a process, the transition from a Catholic to a Protestant nation helped to define national identity.
Patriotism and a country's national narrative go together, for no state and few citizens relish a comprehensive recitation of the nation's mistakes, atrocities and/or failures. The tenor of the story is inevitably a positive retelling of the historical record. People in general and historians in particular understand that historical circumstances do not last forever and change in every era confronts the individual. Our historians, particularly the Victorians, provided an idealized past because, in part, they pondered whether the glories of the English past would prove permanent. Familiar with the rise and fall of classical and medieval empires, for example, they recognized that the British Empire might decline and meet a similar fate. To contemplate the future caused a sense of ‘uncertainty and anxiety’ about what tomorrow might hold. As scholars grounded in the past, they understood that laws of human development, no matter how formulated, could not predict subsequent events in the same sense as the physical or life sciences. The free will of human beings meant that the lessons of history required careful definition and articulation.
Our thesis is that the national history passed from generation to generation, even as the story changes, constitutes an integral part of how the English people view themselves. This identification does not mandate any sort of fundamental agreement, for the past offers a variety of values with which to connect. History (and historians) provide the collective memory for the nation: ‘the archives of human experiences and of the thoughts of past generations’.