English Historians and the Opposition to Positivism

Virtually all important figures in the development of historiography and of history as an academic subject from the 1850s to the end of the Victorian era were explicitly hostile to positivism and to its chief practitioners, Comte and Buckle. The positivists were looking for a system to implement their revolutionary political, social, economic, religious, and ethical intentions. The generally conservative antipositivists defended free will, individualism, and divine will against the high degree of determinism of positivism, and they were skeptical of man's ability or desire to know himself or his future. Their strength lay in their sociopolitical and religious role in the English universities. Nineteenth-century positivism has been confused with individualism, whereas it was individualism which defeated positivism.