Richard Davenport-Hines

No Mere Pageant

History and the Enlightenment

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Diarmaid MacCulloch recently made an impish speech about Lord Mandelson’s proposals to wreck history as a university subject. ‘Good history’, he declared, ‘makes people sane. Bad history makes people mad.’ The sanity of the best history writing is exemplified in History and the Enlightenment, a posthumous collection of Hugh Trevor-Roper’s essays in which Burckhardt – ‘so detached, so sane … so ready to leave insoluble questions suspended in mystery’ – is contrasted with his Basel University colleague Nietzsche, ‘so strident, so decisive, so suspicious of history, and, in the end, mad’.

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