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Herbert Butterfield and the Pitfalls of Official History
Patrick Salmon
6 December 2021

Herbert Butterfield (1900–1979) was one of the earliest and strongest critics of what he saw as the British government’s attempts to control the past through the writing of so-called, ‘official histories’. His famous diatribe against the 'pitfalls' of government-mandated history first appeared in 1949, at a time when the British government was engaged in publishing official histories and diplomatic documents on an unprecedented scale following the Second World War. But why was Butterfield so hostile to official history, and why do his views still matter today?

Written by one of the few historians employed by the British government, this important new book details how successive governments have applied a selective approach...

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