The competing persuasions available to historical thinkers and writers by the turn of the nineteenth century did not confine themselves to their own territories, insulated from world events. They co-mingled and drew both strength and opposition from events taking place ‘on the ground’. Among the most significant determinants after 1815 was the defeat of revolutionary sentiment and its further repression in England; a period of intense rethinking of the recent past in France by a generation needing to accommodate the enormities of the Revolution, the Directorate and Napoleon; and the birth of a new American sensibility, fresh from its second defeat of the British in 1814 and finding an historical version of itself that would reflect the uniqueness of the American venture. To make all these projects sound the same stretches credibility and does little justice to the singularities of each. Yet since we are searching for intellectual environments in which to locate the writing of history, there remains some point in grouping together forms of writing which their authors would never have grouped, using the retrospect which they manipulated with some distinction in their histories but which was denied to them when they tried to understand their own location just as we struggle to make sense of ours. Grouping invites categories and perhaps the idea of ‘romanticism’ does less violence to these histories than might some alternatives.