IS THE PAST A MIRROR?

In a recent post at Big Questions Online entitled A Not-So-Distant Mirror, Alan Jacobs suggests that the 18th-century might be a mirror to our own by drawing on the work of Roy Porter. This is, actually, quite a contentious claim. Some of the more important debates about English/British history in the last 50 yearsindeed, history-writing generallyhave been about whether or not we should understand the early modern period as a kind of road leading to modernity. Porter certainly leans that wayhis book on the Enlightenment was titled The Creation of the Modern Worldwhile other notable historians, such as Linda Colley, would likely express serious reservations about any such linear analogy. Indeed I suspect Porter himself, in his more tentative, reflective moments would hesitate as well. In his review of Porter’s work on the British Enlightenment, “Highway to Modernity,Colin Kidd specifically identifies these contrasting movementsliberal whig progressivism and scholarly reticencein Porter’s own thinking. And then we have the important work of Jonathan Clark as a contrasting voice. Continue reading “IS THE PAST A MIRROR?”