The unity of history and periods? the unique historical periodization of E. A. FREEMAN

Oded Y. Steinberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)651-679
Number of pages29
JournalModern Intellectual History
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Cambridge University Press.


Dive into the research topics of 'The unity of history and periods? the unique historical periodization of E. A. FREEMAN'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this