Chapter

The historians’ response to the historical novel

Brian Hamnett

in The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695041
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732164 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695041.003.0007
The historians’ response to the historical novel

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Historians sought to reclaim the space taken by the historical novelists. Several of them, including Thierry and Macaulay, were influenced by the novelists, and certainly Macaulay placed great emphasis on style and drama in his narratives of events. His books gained wide popularity in Victorian England. The rise of England through the Protestant allegiance became one of Macaulay’s greatest themes. Ranke, for his part, sought to trace the processes involved in the formation of states through the dynastic monarchies, which superseded the unified Christendom of the Middle Ages. Although influenced by Romanticism in style and in the construction of his material, Ranke disliked the fictionalising of historical novels. Nevertheless, his character portraits were striking. Michelet transformed the French Revolution into an organic entity powered by ‘the people’. This new mythology was expressed in literary fashion, although the French historian emphasised his debt to the archives. Historians such as these managed to push the historical into the background. However Dickens’ portrayal of the French Revolution gained a wider readership and for a much longer time than Carlyle’s, even though the latter had influenced his understanding of the Revolution.

Keywords: scientific history; sources; processes; revolutions; dynasties; nations; ethnicity; people

Chapter.  11367 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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