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date: 17 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues for the History of England’s importance in Hume’s overall achievement. The chapter describes the History’s genesis, reception, methods, and aims. In the role of historian, Hume shared with the ancients the assumption that history is an elevated genre functioning as the “Mistress of Wisdom.” Yet this long work is more notable for historiographical innovation. Like William Robertson and Edward Gibbon, Hume wrote conjectural or philosophical history. Like Machiavelli, Voltaire, and Montesquieu, Hume wrote civil or cultural history, including detailed information on political events, law, commerce, and manners. In a larger sense, the History demonstrates a great philosopher leaving his study (or “closet”) to deal with that practical, sometimes intractable world outside the study. A priori reasoning is tested against that a posteriori reality provided by historical evidence. Thus, in writing the History, Hume became an empiricist in an almost literal sense.

Keywords: Civil history, conjectural history, History of England, historiography, Hume

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