Buckle, Henry Thomas

Buckle, Henry Thomas,

1821–62, English historian. Contemptuous of the historical writing of his day, with its intense concern with politics, wars, and heroes, Buckle undertook the ambitious plan of writing a history of civilization, treating people in relation to each other and to the natural world. At the time of his death, he had completed only the first two volumes of his panoramic History of Civilization in England (1857–61). In his attempt to make his field a science, Buckle arrived at various "laws" of history (e.g., the law of climate, by which he demonstrated that only in Europe could humans reach high levels of civilization) that were in fact rationalizations of his own progressive and liberal views. The effect his book had in shaping English liberal thought was nonetheless immediate and huge. It profoundly influenced later scientific historians and helped to fasten attention on masses rather than individuals, on all life rather than politics, and on the interrelations of people and nature rather than people and morals.

Bibliography

See G. R. St. Aubyn, A Victorian Eminence: Life and Works of Henry Thomas Buckle (1964).

Buckle, Henry Thomas

 

Born Nov. 24, 1821, in Lee, Kent; died May 29,1862, in Damascus. English historian and positivist sociologist. Received no systematic education.

Buckle’s main work was the two-volume History of Civilization in England (1857–61; Russian translation in Otechestvennye zapiski, 1861; separate edition, 1863–64). In this work, Buckle concentrated on the study of the natural environment, movement of population, distribution of property, and development of education. He made a direct connection between the development of consciousness and the conditions of the geographical environment. He considered the accumulation of knowledge to be the cause of change in economic and political systems. Admiration’ for English liberalism and the principles of free trade and state nonintervention in economic life are evident in the book. Buckle’s views were imbued with faith in the boundless power of reason and in social progress, hatred for clericalism, and belief in the possibility of using scientific methods (particularly statistics) in obtaining knowledge of the laws of history. These aspects of Buckle’s Weltanschauung ensured his popularity among circles of the progressive intelligentsia in Russia and a number of other countries.

REFERENCE

Chernyshevskii. N. G. “Zamechaniianaknigu G. T. Boklia’Istoriia tsivilizatsii ν Anglii.’” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 16. Moscow, 1953.

E. B. CHERNIAK

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