From mid-century the new language gained currency from the work of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace with highly significant results in the 1870s and 1880s. Seen as a whole, indeed, the nineteenth century saw a process of ‘secularization’ within the Western intelligentsia which brooked no denial.54 In the case of its historians, on the other hand, we need to exercise care for the rush towards the secular in this sector by no means reflected that discovered among those committed to various forms of ‘social science’. Geographically it lacked all symmetry: French and American historians made more of it, for example, than the British. Indeed one could make a case for British singularity in witnessing a surprising persistence of religious category and assumption as the basis of its historiography (see

Bentley 1993). Nor did the ‘scientific’ impetus carry the same message to all parts of Europe. In France it became, for a time, a cult of generalization about historical method. In Germany it advanced a new school of economic history. In Britain it has to be sought, as ever, in a subtle change of climate that is better associated with the forensic work of an extraordinary collection of medievalists than with those who wanted to turn the world upside down. Yet for all those differences of emphasis, the spread of scientific language and method exercised a compelling influence in making the second half of the century very different from the first.