Relics, Ruins & Worm-eaten Things

Sarah Watling at Literary Review:

We still tend to dismiss the antiquary as the kind of uninspired collector of information embodied by George Eliot’s ossified Casaubon. To the gentlemen historians of the Enlightenment, they were tasteless provincial nobodies (in other words, they lacked the means for a grand tour), whose interest in the material remains of the past ranged from the dull to the downright insanitary. To the 19th-century professionals who succeeded them, they were an amateurish embarrassment, whose contributions to knowledge were rarely acknowledged, even (or especially) when they provided the basis for later work. In Time’s Witness, a history of history in the Romantic age, Hill launches a rehabilitation. Taking her ‘impetus’ from Hugh Trevor-Roper’s implication in ‘The Romantic Movement and the Study of History’ that the development of the discipline fell into abeyance between the towering figures of the 18th century (Hume, Gibbon, Robertson) and the 19th (Macaulay, Michelet, Ranke), she contends that the study of the past during those years was stewarded by exactly these much-maligned endeavourers.

more here.