Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 June 2021
The British Enlightenment grappled with the concept of “modern history”: what it should contain and what kind of guide to the world it should be. This chapter examines the decline of neoclassical assumptions about history writing in the context of Britain’s rapid social transformation and the emergence of its robust commercial society. A new pressure for historiography to acknowledge this modern world led historians to profound questions about the relation between present and past. How was the eighteenth-century world different from what came before it? When and where did its modernity begin? Asking and answering these questions produced not only new kinds of history writing but also new readers and writers of history. Setting aside the history of great men, new kinds of histories made clear that everyone is a historical actor, opening the door for women and men who would never be statesmen to tell their stories. New histories took many forms, and the chapter’s sections focus on the different answers to questions about the past—and how to represent it-- provided by philosophical history writing, antiquarianism, and the novel.