Front Page Titles (by Subject) Preface to the Liberty Fund Edition - David Hume: Prophet of the Counter-revolution
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Preface to the Liberty Fund Edition - Laurence L. Bongie, David Hume: Prophet of the Counter-revolution 
David Hume: Prophet of the Counter-revolution (2nd ed.), Foreword by Donald W. Livingston (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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Preface to the Liberty Fund Edition
Much has changed in Hume studies since this book was first published in 1965. For example, the introduction to the first edition noted that Hume’s History was “neither widely read nor readily available.” The complete work had then been out of print since the end of the nineteenth century. Today, Hume’s History is handily available in the Liberty Fund edition (1983-85, 6 vols.), and dozens of books along with scores of articles have focussed attention in recent years on Hume the historian. Perhaps most important of all, long-overdue recognition of the integral linkage between Hume’s historical and philosophical writings has opened up one of the most rewarding avenues of inquiry in current Hume studies.
History being one of the more ephemeral arts, most studies like this one, after an interval of several decades, have necessarily forfeited some degree of relevance. If this work is still able in some measure to make a contribution, it is no doubt because—in an area wherein the violent battles of the past are constantly being reformulated and refought by the factions of the present—it chooses to focus exclusively on interrogation of the primary texts, texts that are invited to speak as much as possible for themselves. David Hume, Prophet of the Counter-revolution does not set out to decree what “really” happened during the Great Rebellion in England or what was “really” going on during France’s even greater Revolution when, in an ongoing conflation of day-to-day history and counter-revolutionary historiography, the lessons and parallels drawn from Hume’s History of the Stuarts were regularly weighed and scrutinized. Rather, my study focusses on the interplay of conflicting perceptions, privileged as the only “facts” that are relevant to the investigation. Whether such facts can exist independently of their interpretative perceptions and whether they can be stripped bare and objectively recovered in uncorrupted form by the “scientific” historian are very large questions that I do not pursue here.
As much the courageous contrarian, sceptical exploder of myths, and lucid revisionist in history as he was in philosophy, David Hume prided himself on having written the first impartial account of the English Revolution. England’s Whig establishment hotly disputed Hume’s claim, but on the other side of the Channel the French reading public’s admiration and praise for the “godlike” fairness of the “English Tacitus” knew no bounds. With the coming of the French Revolution, Hume’s much lauded impartiality, the tear he shed for the fate of Charles I, became an important element in counter-revolutionary ideology. The ghost of our philosopher-historian who wrote his History for fame almost as much as for truth was probably not displeased by the flattering attention accorded the “lessons” of his History at every stage of France’s bloody upheaval. Now, two centuries later, delighted by the explosion of renewed interest in his great work, David Hume’s ghost is undoubtedly still smiling benevolently and taking well-deserved curtain calls.
Note: In this Liberty Fund edition, all of the French documentation, representing over one-third of the original Oxford University Press text, has been translated into English. All of the translations are my own.
L. L. B.