whig theory

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Annakrutitskaya

Senior Member
Russian
Dear Native Speakers,
I couldn't find the meaning of this expression - 'whig theory" of history, science, thought, etc. The word 'whig' means something like sour creme, the thing which is left after the milk turns sour, if I understand correctly. So, what would 'whig' theory mean?

For ex, The Whig theory of the history of science is very similar, of course, to the Whig theory of the history itself (M. Rothbarb)
Thank you!
 
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Did you read this part of the Wikipedia article?
    Whig history (or Whig Historiography) is the approach to historiography which presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. In general, Whig historians emphasize the rise of constitutional government, personal freedoms and scientific progress. The term is often applied generally (and pejoratively) to histories that present the past as the inexorable march of progress toward enlightenment. The term is also used extensively in the history of science for historiography that focuses on the successful chain of theories and experiments that led to present-day science, while ignoring failed theories and dead ends. It is claimed that Whig history has many similarities with the Marxist-Leninist theory of history, which presupposes that humanity is moving (through historical stages) to the classless, egalitarian society of communism.
    Whig history is a form of liberalism, that puts its faith in the power of human reason to reshape society for the better, regardless of past history and tradition. It proposes the inevitable progress of mankind. Its opposite is conservative history or "Toryism." English historian A.J.P. Taylor commented "Toryism rests on doubt in human nature; it distrusts improvement, clings to traditional institutions, prefers the past to the future."
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Some people tend to look back on a golden age when everything was better than it is today. The whiggish attitude is more optimistic; things are getting better and better overall, and will continue to do so in the future.

    (The left-over cream thing I think you'll find is "whey" Anna- you must be using a curious kind of dictionary.)
     

    Annakrutitskaya

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Dears, thank you very much. I think I did not ask the question correctly - I do understand the idea behind "whig theory", it's main postulates, especially after this link to wiki, but I still do not understand the meaning of the word itself 'whig', how to translate this word, what does the word mean but not the theory ) Thank you!
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The word is the name of a political party (or several political parties). It is no more translatable that "Fred Bloggs". But maybe a word like "progressive" (as opposed to "conservative") would provide some explanation or feel.
     
    Last edited:

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Dears, thank you very much. I think I did not ask the question correctly - I do understand the idea behind "whig theory", it's main postulates, especially after this link to wiki, but I still do not understand the meaning of the word itself 'whig', how to translate this word, what does the word mean but not the theory ) Thank you!
    The WRF dictionary entry (you did search first, right?:D) has the following information on where the word whig may come from (its
    "etymology")
    Etymology: 17th Century: probably shortened from whiggamore, one of a group of 17th-century Scottish rebels who joined in an attack on Edinburgh known as the whiggamore raid; probably from Scottish whig to drive (of obscure origin) + more, mer, maire horse, mare1
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    WRFagrees with the OED, which adds:
    Whig, n.2 and adj.

    Etymology: Origin unascertained; probably shortening of whiggamer , whiggamore n.; the occurrence of sense A. 1 (if it belongs to this word) some years before the date of the ‘whiggamore raid’ points to the existence of whig in a general sense before that event.

    †1. A yokel, country bumpkin. Obs. rare.
    c1660 J. Gwynne Mil. Mem. (1822) ii. 90 Most of them were no souldiers, but countrey bumkins, there called Whigs.

    2. An adherent of the Presbyterian cause in Scotland in the seventeenth century; applied orig. to the Covenanters in the West of Scotland who in 1648 wrested the government from the Royalist party and marched as rebels to Edinburgh; in later years, to the extreme section of the Covenanting party who were regarded as rebels. Hist.‘By rigid Episcopalians, it is still given to Presbyterians in general; and, in the West of S[cotland], even by the latter, to those who, in a state of separation from the established church, profess to adhere more strictly to Presbyterian principles’ (Jamieson, 1808).

    1888 M. Morris Claverhouse ix. 159 The men of the hill-sides and moorlands of the West, the wild Western Whigs, who feared..the name of Claverhouse.

    3. a. Applied to the Exclusioners (c1679) who opposed the succession of James, Duke of York, to the crown, on the ground of his being a Roman Catholic. Hist. (Opposed to Tory n. 2.)
    1679 A. Wood Life & Times (1892) II. 431 After the breaking out of the popish plot severall of our scholars were tried and at length were discovered to be whiggs, viz...Georg Reynell of C.C.C., looked upon as alwayes a round-head.

    3 b. fig. A rebel.
    1683 Dryden Another Epil. in Prol. Duke of Guise sig. B2v, When Sighs and Pray'rs their Ladies cannot move, They Rail, write Treason, and turn Whiggs to love.

    4. Hence, from 1689, an adherent of one of the two great parliamentary and political parties in England, and (at length) in Great Britain. (Opposed to Tory n. 3)Since the middle of the 19th century mostly superseded (exc. as a historical term) by Liberal (see liberal adj. 5b, liberal n. 3b), but used occas. since then to express adherence to moderate or antiquated Liberal principles.
    1702 Clarendon's Hist. Rebellion I. Pref. p. viii, We have lived..to see the two great Parties, of late known by the Names of Whig and Tory, directly change their ground.
     
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