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Journal Article

Diagnosing Froude's Disease: Boundary Work and the Discipline of History in Late-Victorian Britain

Ian Hesketh
History and Theory
Vol. 47, No. 3 (Oct., 2008), pp. 373-395
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25478769
Page Count: 23
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Diagnosing Froude's Disease: Boundary Work and the Discipline of History in Late-Victorian Britain
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Abstract

Historians looking to make history a professional discipline of study in Victorian Britain believed they had to establish firm boundaries demarcating history from other literary disciplines. James Anthony Froude ignored such boundaries. The popularity of his historical narratives was a constant reminder of the continued existence of a supposedly overturned phase of historiography in which the historian was also a man of letters, transcending the boundary separating fact from fiction and literature from history. Just as professionalizing historians were constructing a methodology that called on historians to be inductive empirical workers, Froude refused to accept the new science of history, and suggested instead that history was an individual enterprise, one more concerned with drama and art than with science. E. A. Freeman warned the historical community that they "cannot welcome [Froude] as a partner in their labors, as a fellow-worker in the cause of historic truth." This article examines the boundary work of a professionalizing history by considering the attempt to exclude Froude from the historian's discourse, an attempt that involved a communal campaign that sought to represent Froude as "constitutionally inaccurate." Froude suffered from "an inborn and incurable twist," argued Freeman, thereby diagnosing "Froude's disease" as the inability to "make an accurate statement about any matter." By unpacking the construction of "Froude's disease," the article exposes the disciplinary techniques at work in the professionalization of history, techniques that sought to exclude non-scientific modes of thought such as that offered by Froude.

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