ABSTRACT

To write history, Clarendon thought, one needed to have made it. ‘There was never yet a good History written but by Men conversant in Business, and of the best and most liberal Education’, he wrote in his digression on the historian’s art in the essay ‘On an Active and on a Contemplative Life’, composed during the last part of his life in exile in France after 1667. Polybius, Livy, Tacitus had all been consuls, or counsellors or advisers to emperors, he remarked; it was not

a Collection of Records, or an Admission to the View and Perusal of the most secret Letters and Acts of State, (though they are great and necessary Contributions) which can enable a Man to write a History, if there be an Absence of that Genius and Spirit and Soul of an Historian, which is contracted by the Knowledge and Course and Method of Business, and by Conversation and Familiarity in the Inside of Courts, and the most active and eminent Persons in the Government; all which yields an admirable Light, though a Man writes of Times, and Things which were transacted for the most Part before he was born. 2