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Chapter 5 - Johnson and British Historiography

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2022

Greg Clingham
Affiliation:
Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
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Summary

Assessing the relationships between Johnson’s attitudes toward history and historical writing and British historiographical conditions during the first half of the eighteenth century can offer useful perspectives on his sometimes contradictory views. For Johnson, many of the problems in contemporary British historiography, ranging from the ubiquity of inadequate compilations to the strikingly overt politicization of all historical writing at the time, involved questions of authorial control. To enlarge the truncated narratives and expand the scope of the kinds of histories Johnson saw being written by his contemporaries, he turned to forms of social and cultural history, along with parahistorical genres such as memoir and biography, in order to engage the increased readership for historical writing during the period. Although Johnson’s thought characteristically generalizes, his negativity about historical writing can often be understood in more specific terms, as reactions to the contemporary situation in British historiography.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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