History as Form: Architecture and Liberal Anglican Thought in the Writings of E. A. Freeman

Alex Bremner, Jonathan Conlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traditionally viewed as one of the leading lights of Whig history in the High Victorian period, Edward Augustus Freeman (1823–1892) is best known for his History of the Norman Conquest (1865–1876). For all his reputation for scholarly pedantry, Freeman had wide-ranging interests, including architecture. His first book, A History of Architecture (1849), was both unique and controversial: unique in being the first history of world architecture in English, and controversial because its “philosophical” method differed so markedly from the two most common understandings of architecture in his own time (antiquarianism and ecclesiology). A closer look at Freeman's intellectual pedigree reveals links through Thomas Arnold to German idealist models of universal history. These links lead Freeman to open up a wider perspective on history by developing an understanding of the past based on an analysis of material culture. Architecture offered a window onto the “hidden law” by which human culture evolved. To study Freeman's historical writing on architecture is to gain a new insight into the development of the Liberal Anglican mind and its concern for a divinely ordained pattern in world history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-326
Number of pages28
JournalModern Intellectual History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

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