The Victorian historian E. A. Freeman (1823-92), following Thomas Arnold, promoted the innovative idea of the unity of history, according to which history was a linked, recurring cycle without the artificial boundary of periods. In recent research, however, it is little noticed that, along with this unity theory, Freeman also emphasized the ruptures and the divisions in history. It is even less noticed that Freeman devised a unique periodization, which abolished AD 476 as the date marking the fall of Rome. Thus the very idea of the unity of history seems to contradict the use of periods. The former stressed a historical continuum while the latter denoted historical ruptures. This article argues that Freeman's notion of race could, in most cases, solve the apparent tension between these two divergent ideas (unity versus periods). Nevertheless, it is also argued that in some exceptional cases Freeman identified other factors besides race (e.g. religion) as transforming the innate racial belonging and the predestined course of history.
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