Giovanni Tarantino (Monash University,School of Historical Studies)
Cromohs Virtual Seminars: Recent historiographical trends of the British Studies (17th-18th Centuries), 2006-2007: 1-8
Writing about history is by its very nature a revisionist process. Nevertheless, in relation to Stuart and Hanoverian Britain the term came to be applied to specific historiographic paths of enquiry pursued in British, Canadian and American universities during the 1970s. In a fine recent synthesis of instances of historiographic debate in the English language that have undermined some of the age-old interpretative orthodoxies of early-modern British history, Ronald Hutton explained the interpretative boldness and liveliness of these practices as the result of various converging factors. Foremost amongst these was the increasingly free access to university education and the academic career system that took place in the 1950s and 60s. “Not only did this make more likely a multiplicity of differing viewpoints, but it reduced the hitherto marked influence of a small number of distinguished scholars over the disposal of posts, and thus arguably encouraged independence amongst their juniors.”
Another important factor was ‘the archival revolution’ in Great Britain; county record offices containing thousands of private and public archive collections were opened up after 1950, making a mass of sources and documents much more accessible than had previously been the case. Finally, a cultural climate strongly critical of traditional values developed in Western Europe and North America during the 60s; this was concomitant to the crumbling of the colonial empires, a pervasive secularization of private customs and social ethics, an acceleration in the mechanisms of production, consumption and social mobility, and a new awareness of collective and global responsibility for the conservation of the ecosystem.