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Making HistoryEdward Augustus Freeman and Victorian Cultural Politics$

G.A. Bremner and Jonathan Conlin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265871

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265871.001.0001

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date: 26 May 2020

‘Seeing Things With Our Own Eyes’: E. A. Freeman’s Historical Travels

‘Seeing Things With Our Own Eyes’: E. A. Freeman’s Historical Travels

(p.85) 5 ‘Seeing Things With Our Own Eyes’: E. A. Freeman’s Historical Travels
Making History

William M. Aird

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

Edward A. Freeman travelled extensively throughout his life and was far from being a sedentary gentleman-scholar confined to his country residence at Somerleaze, Somerset. According to Freeman, the successful historian needed to see the places about which he wrote. His historical travels took him to all parts of Europe, into North Africa and to the United States. Freeman’s foreign tours were carefully organised and conducted with the central purpose of informing and guiding his historical work. Over many years, Freeman developed a methodology for his historical travels that he seems to have applied consistently. On occasion, his travels took him into dangerous regions, such as Dalmatia in the late 1870s. Edward Freeman’s travels reflected his interest in historical geography and his recognition of the importance of place in the study of the past marks him out as one of the pioneers of the so-called ‘spatial turn’ in modern historiography.

Keywords:   Edward Augustus Freeman, historical geography, Victorian travel, Dalmatia, Montenegro, Herzegovina, Victorian historiography, Arthur J. Evans, Ottoman Empire, Eastern Question

FOR EDWARD FREEMAN THERE was an intimate connection between the study of history and the study of geography. He made his case for linking the two disciplines in the introductory chapter to his Historical Geography of Europe: ‘Our present business then is with geography as influenced by history, and with history as influenced by geography.’1 It was important, Freeman argued, to understand the distinction between physical geography and historical geography and the only way to discern the relationship between the two was to travel.2 Later, Freeman devoted a chapter to ‘Geography and Travel’ in his Methods of Historical Study, published in 1886.3 There Freeman wrote:

Geography, in one of its aspects, is simply a branch of history; in the other it is a precious help to history. In one aspect, it is a form of knowledge which may be mastered in the study of books and maps; in the other, it is a matter of travel, a matter of seeing things with our own eyes.4

Freeman made a point of seeing things with his own eyes and for a man afflicted with severe gout, which sometimes hindered his journeys, he was a surprisingly energetic traveller.5 The subject of this essay is, therefore, Freeman (p.86) as the ‘historical pilgrim’: why he made a series of sometimes arduous journeys to all parts of Europe and beyond, and how he presented his journeys to the reading public.6 In some respects Freeman’s interest in this relationship between geography and history anticipated the approach to the past espoused by later historians, most notably those associated with the Annales School.7

Freeman considered travel an essential component of historical study and without it the historian’s training was incomplete:

Beyond doubt the finished historian must be a traveller; he must see with his own eyes the true look of a wide land; he must see too with his eyes the very spots where great events happened; he must mark the lie of a city, and take in, as far as a non-technical eye can, all that is special about a battlefield8 … You cannot, so I at least have found it, fully take in the history of the world, its lands and its cities, except by working at each historic spot on the spot itself.9

Freeman’s travels throughout the British Isles and Europe were extensive and, in 1881–2, he visited North America.10 The first journey to the Continent was made in 1856, when he and a colleague from Oxford, the Revd North Pinder, travelled through Aquitaine to the Pyrenees.11 Freeman’s biographer suggested that he ‘had no pleasure in travelling, except as one means of carrying (p.87) on those studies in which all his thoughts were absorbed’.12 There were, however, some places Freeman actively detested as he made clear in a letter from Paris dated 5 May 1861 to the constitutional historian William Stubbs, later bishop of Oxford:

But this Paris I do from my heart abjure, detest and abhor, and it is only to please my wife that I stay an hour longer than is wanted to compare St. Germans in the Fields with the Norman churches and to look into some of the book shops on Quai Voltaire.13

Freeman invariably visited the places he was to write about in his many historical works. For example, he made a tour of Normandy in 1867 to inform his work on his monumental History of the Norman Conquest, and again visited the duchy in the 1870s as he prepared to publish his study of the reign of William Rufus.14 Despite the arduous nature of some of the journeys, Freeman felt duty bound to visit those places he discussed in his books and so continued to travel throughout his life. Freeman felt that his tours imbued his historical writing with authority as well as helping to clarify certain points of detail. Of a visit to Beaumont-le-Roger (Normandy) in 1892, Freeman noted: ‘It is a pleasant process when these small facts come out on the spot with a life that they can never get out of books.’15 He was on a tour through Spain, with his wife Eleanor, gathering information for a study of Iberian history, when he died at Alicante on the morning of Wednesday 16 March 1892.16

For Edward Freeman, then, travel was an essential component of his self-fashioning as a serious historian. From the beginning of his historical studies, he had been aware of the importance of geographically locating the (p.88) past. In an essay published only months before his death, Freeman remembered that his early engagement with history came through the scrutiny of Wilkinson’s atlas: ‘I was never tired of studying these maps, of comparing and copying them.’17 On a number of occasions, Freeman pointed out that it was important to be aware of the historical significance attached to the changing morphology of even the most familiar place-names.18

As an illustration of the significance of travel for Freeman, this essay considers Freeman’s collection of essays Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, published in 1881 by Macmillan & Co., although reference is also made to his other travel-writing. Between 1875 and 1881, Freeman made a number of journeys along the eastern shore of the Adriatic and published some of the accounts or ‘sketches’ of the places he visited in periodicals such as the Saturday Review and the Pall Mall Gazette.19 The publication of collected essays was, in part, a response to the unscrupulous use of his work by others who pirated his anonymous magazine articles. In the preface to the 1876 volume Historical and Architectural Sketches: Chiefly Italian, Freeman noted angrily:

I think it right to mention that, just at the time when several of the literary journals had announced that I had this little book in hand, large extracts from the articles in the Saturday Review appeared in a book by Mr Augustus Hare, called ‘Cities of Central and Northern Italy.’ This was done without any leave either from me or from the Editor of the Saturday Review, and, by a further breach of the rules of literary etiquette, Mr Hare thought proper to add my name to pieces which were still anonymous. To conduct of this kind it is hardly needful to give a name. I, like every other scholar, am always glad to find myself quoted in moderation by any brother-scholar. It is another thing to be made wholesale spoil for the profit of a blundering compilation, whose workman cannot even copy accurately what he—in the sense of the wise—‘conveys’ from others. Mr Hare is very fond of sneering at what he thinks it decent to call the ‘Sardinian government.’ It would seem that he has learned his notions of the rights of property in those parts of the Italian kingdom where the authority of (p.89) the ‘Sardinian government’ is least fully established. They certainly savour of Calabria and Sicily, rather than that of Lombardy and Piedmont.20

Freeman’s complaint here hints at the effect that his travels had on his views and representations of the places and people he encountered. The places and inhabitants of the world were to be visited, assessed, and ranked hierarchically.21 In a volume published in 1891 concerning travels in France, Freeman wrote:

To those whose tastes lead them that way there is a certain special interest in a ramble through the smaller and less famous cities of France … We are now speaking … of the lesser cities, those which do not rank, and which never did rank, among the great historic cities of Europe. Their examination carries with it something of the pleasure of discovery.22

Although rambling through the ‘smaller and less famous cities of France’ hardly provided Freeman with the credentials of a great Victorian explorer, his encounters with the southern Balkans were not without their moments of excitement and peril.

Freeman made three journeys to Dalmatia—in 1875, 1877, and 1881. The expedition of 1877 was made in company with the archaeologist Arthur J. Evans, who provided him with detailed knowledge of ‘South Slavonic’ matters.23 By 1881, Evans had married Freeman’s eldest daughter, Margaret.24 (p.90) Other fellow travellers in 1875 and 1877 are named as the Liberal politician Albert Edmund Parker, the 3rd earl of Morley, and Mr J. F. F. Horner.25 When not travelling with his wife and daughters, Freeman was invariably accompanied by men who shared his wide historical interests.

Despite the political upheavals in south-eastern Europe at the time, Freeman tells us that this was not the reason for his travels there, which began in the autumn of 1875 just two months or so after the rebellion against Turkish rule broke out.26 Instead, he claimed, the journeys were in the main a response to the desire, which he had harboured for 30 years, to see the ‘architectural wonders of Spalato’.27 Freeman’s writings on the history and geography of the lands of the eastern Mediterranean have led to an acknowledgement that he was a ‘pioneer of Byzantine history’.28 Typically, Freeman’s tour was also connected with the publication of his Ottoman Power in Europe, Its Nature, Its Growth, and Its Decline in 1877, but it was perhaps also prompted by a desire to understand the seriousness of the ‘Eastern Question’.29

The focus of the papers Freeman published in his Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice was the historical geography and architecture of the former Venetian colonies on the Dalmatian coast. As in other volumes of his travel-writing, Freeman’s essays were illustrated by reproductions of his own pen-and-ink sketches.30 Despite criticism of the drawings in an earlier collection of essays—criticism that Freeman fully accepted—his illustrations were again included, but they had been ‘made by a new process, (p.91) partly, as before, from my own sketches, but partly also from photographs’.31 Much of Freeman’s time must have been spent making these drawings and they provide a useful and evocative, if at times rather crude, adjunct to his essays.32 He did not think of himself writing ‘guide-books’ to the places he visited and he commented that no such modern guide was needed for Dalmatia as still the best was the work of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus compiled in the 10th century.33

Freeman presented himself as a travelling scholar, rather than a tourist.34 He refers to himself as ‘the antiquarian traveller’, ‘the historical traveller’, or ‘the true traveller’, and always in the third person—a narrative strategy designed to reinforce the authority of his work and distance himself from the more subjective and emotional responses of the ‘picturesque tourist’.35 There are occasional purple passages when the breath-taking scenery overcomes Freeman’s reticence but, for the most part, emotions are kept at a distance for he is no mere tourist. In a passage that has echoes of many modern travelogues, Freeman describes the dilemma of the traveller who finds himself in a place as yet unmarked by mass tourism:

The true traveller is always in a doubtful state of mind when he finds a place of interest neglected by his own countrymen. On the one hand he is personally relieved, as being set free from the gabble of English tourists at tables d’hôte and (p.92) the like. But how far ought he to proclaim to the world the merits of the place which he has found out for himself ? How can he draw the line, so as to lead travellers to come, without holding out the least inducement to mere tourists? But perhaps the danger is not great; tourists will go where it is the fashion to go and the historical traveller must not think of himself more highly than he ought to think or fancy that it is for such as he to create a fashion.36

This was no mere sight-seeing trip, rather it was a serious study of the history, geography, and architecture of the places he visited and thus needed the narrative register of scientific objectivity. In discussing the antiquities of Aquileia, for example, Freeman hoped that ‘we have perhaps done enough to point out the claims of so wonderful a spot on those who look on travelling as something more than a way either of killing time or of conforming to fashion’.37 This was, of course, in keeping with much Victorian travel-writing. In an era when Thomas Cook was organising foreign tours, it was important for the scholarly traveller to distinguish himself from what was seen by some as the frivolous wandering abroad of an increasingly mobile middle class.38 To that end, Freeman devised a ‘fourfold process’ in order ‘that he could be master of any place’:

The traveller should first arm himself with a general knowledge of the history of the place and of all that is to be seen in it. He will thus be able to examine the objects themselves in an intelligent way, to understand their history and meaning … [Here, Freeman might have added that the next stage was to make the first visit to the places in question.] … Then let him go home and study all his material afresh by the light of the local knowledge he has thus gained. The difference between reading the history of a place which we have seen and reading that of one which we have not seen is simply infinite. When we read of spots, buildings, natural objects, which we have ourselves looked on and examined, the story gains a force and depth and meaning which makes all the difference between a living thing and a dead one. We feel at home in the place of which we are reading; we feel as if the men of whom we read were our personal acquaintance. Then lastly, having done this, it is well to see a place a second time by the light of the livelier knowledge thus gained. We are now in a position to correct any mistakes which we have made in our first visit and generally to bring our book-learning and the evidence of our own eyes to illustrate and strengthen one another. Every place, every part of every place, should, whenever it may be (p.93) done, be visited twice, even if the two visits happen on the same day with only a few hours’ interval. There is something in the process of recollection … which makes the impression far keener than if the object be looked at only once. Even if a man has only an hour to give to an object, he will learn more by giving it in the form of two distinct half-hours. But this work of revisiting reaches its highest form when we come the second time charged with all the knowledge gained by a comparison of our earlier memories and with the written history of the place.39

Freeman travelled well-prepared and he was ready to take issue with those authorities he had read before setting out. For example, in his pre-departure research for his Dalmatian journey, he had evidently read the Revd John Mason Neale’s 1861 work, Notes, Ecclesiological and Picturesque, on Dalmatia, Istria, Styria, with a Visit to Montenegro.40 Often Neale is held up by Freeman as a misinformed guide to be corrected or gently ridiculed. This may have much to do with Freeman’s antipathy to the Austrians, who were thanked effusively by Neale.41 Another work that Freeman heavily criticised was James Creagh’s Over the Borders of Christendom and Eslamiah, published in 1876.42 By contrast, the Egyptologist Sir John Gardner Wilkinson’s Dalmatia and Montenegro published in 1848 was a ‘book which no traveller in these lands should be without’, although modern commentators note that it displayed little understanding of the region’s problems.43 Freeman’s preparatory research also made him impatient with the inaccuracies peddled by local guides and he seems to have detested the idea of being shown around in a party.44

(p.94) There are occasional comments on the logistical difficulties of travel in the 1870s, but it seems that Freeman rarely encountered the kind of discomfort that enabled him to portray himself as the heroic manly adventurer familiar from accounts of Victorian expeditions into Africa or other regions beyond the reach of railroad and steamship.45 Adverse weather occasionally provided an opportunity to comment on how the experience of a place might be detrimentally affected:

[I]t is wonderful how a heavy rain damps the zeal of the most inquiring spirit, especially if he be carrying on his inquiries by himself. If he has companions, a good deal of wet may be shaken off by the process of talking and laughing at the common bad luck. If he be alone, every drop sticks; he has nothing to do but grumble and he has nobody to listen to his grumblings but himself.46

During his tour of the eastern United States (1881–2), Freeman was particularly exercised by the condition of the highways:

The lack of good roads is a general feature wherever I have been. I do not say that I saw no good roads in America; but good roads certainly are exceptional. In many parts, as I before remarked, the railroad has come before the road. Even in the immediate neighbourhood of large towns, sometimes even in the streets of large towns themselves, the road is often simply a mass of mud. I do not mean merely such mud as in many parts of England we are used to after rain; I mean thick abiding mire, abiding at least for several months together.47

New York’s thoroughfares were no better: ‘The very first thing that struck me on the day after landing was the neglected and dirty state of many of the New York streets, a state of which an English market-town would certainly be ashamed.’48 Throughout his travels in Europe, Freeman made use of the growing railway network, noting when locations were beyond its reach.49 Certainly rail travel would have provided some relief from the discomfort caused by Freeman’s recurrent attacks of rheumatic gout, but taking the train also enabled him to see more during his annual tours.50 If his interest in, and (p.95) increasing use of, the railway networks suggests that Freeman may not have been the heroic manly adventurer, he nevertheless did travel briefly into a war zone.51

The essays Freeman produced about the places he visited are fairly formulaic. There is usually a sketch of the history of the place, followed by a description of the local topography and the site of the town or city. The focus of his interest is almost exclusively the political and architectural history of the place. These were subjects worthy of the serious traveller’s attention, rather than the customs of the local populace.52 In many places Freeman tried to gain access to towers so that he could view the urban topography from above and get a sense of the physical development of the town. For example, at Aquileia, Freeman climbed a church tower and used a 15th-century map for reference.53 He would also take a tour around the city’s walls whenever possible. In addition to his preparatory research before leaving home, on arrival Freeman sought out a guide-book or map from a local bookseller or museum.54 Finally, Freeman described, often in considerable detail, the architectural features of the ecclesiastical and ‘domestic’ buildings, always with a view to determining how closely they conformed to, or deviated from, recognised architectural styles. As a way of providing his readers with helpful comparators, Freeman often suggested similarities with perhaps more familiar buildings in England, France, and Germany. Again, to take the city of Aquileia in north-eastern Italy at the head of the Adriatic as an example, Freeman compared its walls with those at Exeter and Chichester in southern England.55 During some of his historical and architectural travels, most notably but not exclusively, in Normandy, Freeman cast a critical eye over ‘the remorseless demon of restoration’. Like others of his time, Freeman demanded authenticity and in some places a site without any standing remains was to be preferred to later architectural confections.56

(p.96) The highlight of Freeman’s visit to the Dalmatian coast was Spalato (now Split in Croatia) and its magnificent palace of Diocletian, ‘the main object and centre of all historical and architectural enquiries on the Dalmatian coast’.57 Here, perhaps in his excitement at a long-held ambition fulfilled, Freeman allowed himself to report his feelings on first glimpsing the edifice from the passenger ship at dusk:

[S]pecial indeed is the good luck of him who for the first time draws near to Spalato at the hour of sunset. It is a moment to be marked in a life, as we round the island headland, one of the stony Dalmatian hills rising bleak and barren from the sea, and catch the first glimpse of the city, the tall bell-tower, the proud rampart of mountains which forms its background. But the sight is the more spirit-stirring still if we come on the sight at the very moment when—in sight of the home of the great persecutor we may use the language of mythology—the sun-god has just sunk into its golden cup. The sinking sun seems no unfit symbol, as we look on the spot where the lord of the world withdrew to seek for rest after his toils. Another moment, the headland is rounded; its top is kindled like Vesuvius in the last rays of the sunlight; the lesser light is kindled before the greater has wholly failed us, and, by the light of sun and moon together, we can trace out the long line of the seafront of the palace which became a city.58

As Freeman sailed further south he neared the war zone in Herzegovina and, in a rare adventurous episode, he and three companions made their way ‘beyond the bounds of Christendom’.59

Freeman’s deep interest in Balkan affairs is reflected in many of his writings from the 1870s, but his ‘Trudge to Trebinje’ in Herzegovina was the first time he had seen the effects of modern warfare at first hand, except for a journey through Alsace in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1.60 The experience evidently made a deep impression on Freeman: ‘The first step’, he wrote, ‘which any man takes beyond the bounds of Christendom, can hardly fail to mark a kind of epoch in his life.’61 Through his correspondence with those who claimed they had witnessed the atrocities of war, Freeman had been prepared for what he might encounter and he may have approached (p.97) the expedition with justifiable trepidation.62 Freeman conceived the struggle for independence from Ottoman rule in terms of the medieval wars between Christendom and Islam: it was a struggle fought ‘with all the bitterness of crusading days’.63 The expedition to Trebinje in the autumn of 1875 is introduced as a response to rumours of war and its associated atrocities that he had heard at Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik). He had also seen refugees, women, and children from Herzegovina at Ragusa and this ‘kindled a certain desire to get at least a glimpse of the land where something is certainly going on, though it may not be easy to know exactly what’.64 In a letter to his daughter Florence dated 17 October 1875, Freeman described the expedition:

We have been in partibus infidelium, seen the seat of war, seen the Turks. On Thursday we three [that is Freeman, Horner, and Morley] got a carriage along with a Russian, correspondent for the Galosh or some such name—he seems a regular stick-in-the-mud—and went over the mountains to Trebinje, the nearest town in Herzegovina. We were assured that it was quite safe, and found it so. But mark the difference between Christendom and paynimrie. The road is very good as long as you are in the Austrian territory, and gets bad as soon as you cross the Turkish frontier.65

In another letter, this time to his wife, Freeman painted a darker picture, but also tried to make the foreign more familiar:

Cetinje. October 10. Here we really are. We started about six it was to have been five and did the thing in about seven hours, allowing for a stoppage to breakfast on raki wine and water, bread, onions, and the liver of some creature, may be a Turk. It is a wonderful road up out of Cattaro, zig-zag, with wonderful views of the mountains and the sea, but it was rather giddy for my head. It did better for me afterwards when the road became much rougher, but when there was not the same looking down. Once up, we never came down again the same height, but went on, up and down, sometimes walking, sometimes riding, through limestone mountains, which often reminded Horner and me of Cheddar and Ebbor, till we got into this plain about the height of the Brecknock Beacons.66

(p.98) Freeman’s party made its way across a barren limestone landscape to Trebinje, ‘and I saw for the first time Mosques (ugly), and minarets (pretty), and a bazaar with live Turks lolling in their shops; also tents as in war-time. The bazaar seemed to me like a wild beast show with the fronts of the cages taken off; the hyenas might have sprung on us if they had chosen.’ Elsewhere, Freeman described seeing Turkish soldiers for the first time and his account contains a certain degree of pathos: ‘For men who had never before seen anything of actual warfare there was something striking in the first sight of soldiers, not neat and trim as for some day of parade, but ragged, dirty, and weather-stained with the actual work of war.’67 The sight of these men nevertheless brought to mind the fact that ‘these were the old enemies of Europe and of Christendom, the representatives of the men who stormed the gates of New Rome and who overthrew the chivalry of Burgundy and Poland at Nikopolis and at Varna’.68 In every sense, then, Freeman’s encounter with the Turk gave some force to his oft-quoted maxim that ‘history is past politics and politics are present history’. In his preface to The Ottoman Power in Europe, Freeman wrote:

I use the past history of the Ottoman Turks to shew what is the one way which, according to the light of reason and experience, can be of any use in dealing with the Ottoman Turks of the present day. In this way then my book is at once political and historical. That is, it deals with the politics or the history—I use those words as words of the same meaning—both of past and of present times.69

In addition, Freeman’s use of barbarian and bestial imagery to represent the Turks he met reflected his deep loathing of what he terms Ottoman tyranny in south-eastern Europe.70 It has been argued that Freeman’s view of the Turks developed between the publication of his History and Conquests of the Saracens in 1856 and The Ottoman Power in Europe of 1877.71 By the latter date Freeman had begun to fear that Christian Europe was under threat from an Oriental conspiracy that included both Muslims and Jews.72 More broadly, his narrative device of a journey beyond the frontiers of Christendom imbued his travel-writing with that tone of Victorian cultural and moral superiority that is not unusual in 19th-century travelogues, especially among those (p.99) Westerners who did not spend much time in other cultures.73 There was clearly a sense of relief when Freeman and his companions returned from their brief encounter with the Turk: ‘back to Ragusa, Christendom and civilization’.74

Freeman’s journeys, and the essays they produced, reveal a man for whom travel was a serious business. Freeman was a prodigiously itinerant historian. His purpose was scientific and educational and he had no desire to engage in the fashionable frivolities of the mere tourist. In fact, Freeman celebrated his ability to leave the well-trodden tourist paths behind.75 Not only was travelling an essential component of his historical method, it was also constitutive of his self-image as a serious, trustworthy, and professional historian. In fact it might be argued that Freeman’s travels played an essential role in the production of his historical writings. Freeman often wrote, as well as researched, ‘on location’ so as to inform his texts with an immediacy that was harder to generate in the study of his country house in Somerset. Towards the end of his life, Freeman wrote to Basil Jones, the bishop of St David’s, on 25 October 1891 explaining that before he could embark on what turned out to be his final tour he wanted to have a first draft of his History of Sicily completed. ‘I have not been in Sicily since May 1890’, he wrote, ‘which seems a long time; but I don’t want to go till I have the Saracen and Norman part ready to revise on the spot.’76 Clearly Freeman’s travels were an essential component in the production of his historical works. In other words, place was constitutive of historical practice: where Freeman wrote his histories mattered. In this respect, it is perhaps misleading to confine Freeman to his study at Somerleaze when describing his prodigious historiographical output.77

Freeman’s essays on the architecture and history of the places he visited, along with drawings of significant buildings, demonstrate his wide reading, the extent of his travels, and his propensity to classify everything he saw against typologies that judged whether a certain building, or a certain town, was higher or lower in the European rankings. It went without question that, for Freeman as for so many of his contemporaries, anything beyond the (p.100) frontiers of civilised Christian Europe was to be viewed not only with suspicion and a certain contempt, but also with fascination. In his tours of the Dalmatian coast and elsewhere Freeman was able to express his admiration for the architecture of the towns and note the main features of the region’s rugged geography, but, most of all, he was able to vent his racial and political prejudices and find, perhaps not surprisingly, that by seeing things with his own eyes, his interpretation of the history and politics of his world was justified.

Freeman was not wholly unusual among his contemporaries in recognising the importance of a geographical approach to the past, but there were few contemporary historians who travelled as widely or indeed wrote quite as much as he did. Whereas Freeman’s works often provoked controversy with fellow historians, it is instructive to end this discussion of his historical travels by noting that another scholarly community at the end of the 19th century judged that Freeman had made a significant contribution to their discipline.78 In a fulsome obituary notice printed in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society in June 1892, it was noted that: ‘It is to Freeman, more than any other writer of modern times, that the recognition is due of the necessity for a geographical training and geographical instincts in a true historian.’79 One of the most striking features of Freeman’s historiographical output is the attention that he gave to illustrative maps, perhaps a reflection of his lifelong fascination with cartography.80 In this recognition of the importance of the link between geography, particularly in its chorographical guise, and the discipline of history, Freeman’s work anticipated, at least in some of its aspects, the ‘spatial turn’ advocated by later historians such as those ‘pioneers’ associated with the Annales School.81

Note. I should like to thank Jonathan Conlin and Alex Bremner for the invitation to deliver an earlier version of this essay as a paper at the Freeman conference.


(1) E. A. Freeman, The Historical Geography of Europe, 2 vols (London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1881), vol. 1, p. 11.

(2) Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 1–2. Freeman’s travel sketches first appeared in periodicals and were later collected and published in a number of volumes: see, for example, Historical and Architectural Sketches: Chiefly Italian (London, Macmillan & Co., 1876); Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice (London, Macmillan & Co., 1881); Some Impressions of the United States (London, Longmans, 1882); Sketches from French Travel (Leipzig, Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1891); Studies of Travel: Italy (New York and London, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1891); Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine (London, Macmillan & Co., 1897).

(3) E. A. Freeman, The Methods of Historical Study: Eight Lectures Read in the University of Oxford in Michaelmas Term 1884 (London, Macmillan & Co., 1886), pp. 296–327; see also Herman Paul, Chapter 15, this volume.

(5) W. R. W. Stephens, The Life and Letters of Edward A. Freeman, 2 vols (London, Macmillan & Co., 1895), vol. 1, p. 81 (‘toe woe’); vol. 2, pp. 84, 138, 139, 146, 158, 168, 171, 183, 190, 235, 238 (‘the daemon podagra’), 239, 264, 296, 309, 351, 409. Freeman’s father had suffered ‘severe and painful attacks of rheumatic gout’ (ibid., vol. 1, p. 3).

(6) The term ‘historical pilgrim’ was used by W. H. Hutton in the preface to Freeman, Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, p. ix.

(7) Charles W. J. Withers, ‘Place and the “Spatial Turn” in Geography and in History’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 70, 4 (2009), 637–58. See Peter Burke, The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School 1929–1989 (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1990), pp. 13–15, 36–7.

(8) In December 1868, Freeman visited the supposed site of the Battle of Hastings, later asking the geologist and palaeontologist Sir William Boyd Dawkins ‘a heap of questions’ about the battle: Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 1, pp. 414–15.

(9) Freeman, Methods of Historical Study, pp. 314–15. W. H. Hutton noted in Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, p. vii, that Freeman’s ‘studies and sketches of travels, already published, have shown him a wanderer in many lands and a keen observer of many peoples and their cities. He travelled always as a student of history and of architecture, and probably no man has ever so happily combined the knowledge of both.’ Stephens, in Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 469, remarked that ‘All his tours were really parts of his work, being always undertaken in pursuit of some historical or architectural inquiry, and travelling without any direct purpose of this kind would have been to him intolerably irksome.’

(10) Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 1, pp. 63–5, 102, 109, 293–5, 301, 304, 328; vol. 2, pp. 16, 32–3, 35, 61, 92, 131–2, 139, 146, 158, 172, 177–8, 200, 221, 295, 297, 331, 352, 357, 425, 469. Freeman also travelled from Sicily to Tunis in North Africa to visit the site of Carthage: Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 297. For Freeman’s visit to North America, see Jonathan Conlin, Chapter 6, this volume and William M. Aird, ‘Edward A. Freeman in America and “The English People in Their Three Homes” ’, Haskins Society Journal, 15 (2006 for 2004), 40–54.

(11) Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 1, p. 216. Freeman, in Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 132, later acknowledged, in a letter of 2 April 1876 to the Revd Pinder, that ‘Tis just twenty years since you first taught me the art of foreign travel.’

(12) Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 1, p. 293; vol. 2, pp. 460–1. Freeman had travelled widely from early on in his life when his interest in ecclesiastical architecture took him all over England and he seems to have preferred the ‘outdoor life’. His friend James Bryce (1838–1922), when writing about Freeman’s predilection for residing at his country house, ‘Somerleaze’ near Wells (Somerset), noted, ‘For the greater part of his [i.e. Freeman’s] manhood his surroundings were those of a country gentleman, nor did he ever reconcile himself to town life, for he loved the open sky, the fields and hills’: James Bryce, ‘Edward Augustus Freeman’ in idem, Studies in Contemporary Biography (London, Macmillan & Co., 1903), pp. 262–92 at 263.

(14) E. A. Freeman, A History of the Norman Conquest of England, 6 vols (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1867–79); E. A. Freeman, The Reign of William Rufus, 2 vols (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1882). These tours of Normandy are described in Freeman, Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine.

(15) Freeman, Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, p. 180. See also Bryce, Studies in Contemporary Biography, pp. 266–7, quoting the archaeologist George T. Clark’s opinion of Freeman’s attention to historical geography: Freeman often delivered lectures to his audience on site and, according to Clark, ‘Freeman was always at his best when in the field.’

(16) Freeman’s journal for the period 3 September 1888 to 6 March 1892 contains a record of his last illness in the form of a series of temperature readings and brief notes on his condition: John Rylands Library (JRL), Papers of Edward Augustus Freeman (FA), GB 133, JRL, FA 3/8. Freeman is buried in the Protestant cemetery in Alicante.

(17) E. A. Freeman, ‘A Review of My Opinions’, The Forum (April 1892), cited in Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 1, p. 12. The atlas in question may have been R. Wilkinson, Atlas Classica being a Collection of Maps of the Countries Mentioned by the Ancient Authors both Sacred and Profane with Their Various Subdivisions at Different Periods (London, Robert Wilkinson, 1808). Compare Freeman, The Methods of Historical Study, p. 312: ‘I started from the map, from the study of geography on the map, and from that I have wandered to the more living study of geography on the very soil of the lands and cities whose history we are studying.’

(18) See, for example, Freeman’s discussion of the geopolitical implications for the historian of the incautious use of the terms ‘France’ and ‘Austria’: Freeman, The Methods of Historical Study, pp. 302–5.

(19) On these periodicals, see M. M. Bevington, The Saturday Review, 1855–1868: Representative Educated Opinion in Victorian England (New York, Columbia University Press, 1941); John Scott, The Story of the Pall Mall Gazette, of Its First Editor Frederick Greenwood and of Its Founder George Murray Smith (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1950).

(20) Freeman, Historical and Architectural Sketches: Chiefly Italian, pp. vi–vii. It is interesting, here, to note that Freeman subscribes to the opinion, perhaps still widely held, that the southern regions of Italy (Calabria and Sicily) were known for their lawlessness.

(21) Vicky L. Morrisroe, ‘“Sanguinary Amusement”: E. A. Freeman, the Comparative Method and Victorian Theories of Race’, Modern Intellectual History, 10 (2013), 27–56 at 30–1.

(23) Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, pp. 150, 152, 154, 163, 209, 224, 257, 334, 343, 372, 398, 409, 413, 419, 420, 458, 460, 461. On other occasions Freeman was accompanied by the geologist Boyd Dawkins, whose brief account of travelling with his friend in connection with research for Freeman’s description of the Battle of Senlac (Hastings) was quoted in ‘The Late Professor E. A. Freeman and His Services to Geography’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, new monthly ser., 14, 6 (June 1892), 401–4 at 403. I am grateful to the editors of the present volume for the reference to this item. See also note 9 above. The obituary notice was initialled ‘C. R. M.’, and was probably written by Freeman’s old schoolfriend, the much-travelled geographer Sir Clements Robert Markham. Markham himself attempted an historical study, Richard III, His Life and Character Reviewed in the Light of Recent Research (London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1906). See Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 1, pp. 17, 18, and Elizabeth Baigent, ‘Markham, Sir Clements Robert (1830–1916)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), online edn, May 2011, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/34880.

(25) Freeman, Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, p. vii; L. C. Sanders, ‘Parker, Albert Edmund, third earl of Morley (1843–1905)’, rev. H. C. G. Matthew, ODNB, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35381.

(26) Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, pp. 101–70. Evans, in Through Bosnia and Herzegovina on Foot, p. ix, also noted that his walking tour of the region was not prompted by the political situation: ‘It was planned before the outbreak, and was first suggested by the interest which previous visits to other South Sclavonic lands had led me to take in the branch of that race still under the Sultan’s dominion, and owing to a special curiosity to see a race of Sclavonic Mahometans.’ Freeman indicated his desire to visit Spalato in a letter to the Greek politician M. Charilaos Trikoupes, dated 19 July 1875: Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 921. For the political context, see William Kelley, Chapter 7, this volume.

(28) Paul Stephenson, ‘E. A. Freeman (1823–1892), A Neglected Commentator on Byzantium and Modern Greece’, Historical Review/La Revue Historique, Institute for Hellenic Research, 4 (2007), 119–56. I am grateful to Professor Michael Angold for drawing my attention to this article.

(29) E. A. Freeman, The Ottoman Power in Europe, Its Nature, Its Growth, and Its Decline (London, Macmillan & Co., 1877). The political agenda underpinning Freeman’s study of Ottoman power is forcefully expressed in the lengthy preface to this volume, pp. vii–xii.

(30) GB 133, JRL, FA 4/12. This is a collection of 34 items including drawings of buildings in Cattaro (Kotor), Curzola (Korcula), Ragusa (Dubrovnik), Spalato (Split), Traü (Trogir), and Zara (Zadar).

(31) Freeman, Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, p. viii. Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 1, p. 272: Freeman held ambivalent views on photography as he made known in a letter to G. Finlay dated 19 August 1861: ‘… here I am, such as I am, only I find the photographic art refuses to represent me with a beard of its natural colour. Some say I look fierce, and some sentimental; I am sure I don’t know; it is hard to look anyhow when one has to screw up one’s face into a state of artificial nothingness.’

(32) Letters of John Richard Green, ed. Leslie Stephen (London, Macmillan & Co., 1902), p. 307, mentions Freeman working away at his drawings during a visit to the Rhineland in 1871. Concerning Freeman’s architectural drawings, Bryce, in Studies in Contemporary Biography, p. 264, commented: ‘He [i.e. Freeman] taught himself to sketch, not artistically, but sufficiently well to record characteristic points.’

(33) Freeman, Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, p. ix. For a modern edition of this text, see Constantine Porphyrogenitus, de adminstrando imperio, ed. Gyula Moravcsik, trans R. J. H. Jenkins (Washington, DC, Dumbarton Oaks Texts, 2009). Elsewhere, too, Freeman advocates taking a medieval text as a guide to an historical site. In 1867, during a tour of Normandy, he visited the site of William the Conqueror’s victory at Val-ès-Dunes (1047) and suggested that it was ‘quite worth the while of any student of Norman history’ to walk over the ground with a copy of the work of the 12th-century historian Wace in his hand: Freeman, Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, pp. 37–8. For a modern edition of Wace’s text, see Wace, The Roman de Rou, trans. Glyn S. Burgess (Jersey, Société Jersiaise, 2002).

(34) Freeman, Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, p. 1, referred to ‘the mere holiday tourist’.

(35) On these and other issues concerning travel-writing, see Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002) and Carl Thompson, Travel Writing (London and New York, Routledge, 2011). For the ‘tourist gaze’, see John Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies (London, Sage, 1990). For Freeman’s views on tourists, see, for example, Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 58.

(36) Freeman, Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, pp. 26–7 (emphasis added). Similar sentiments are aired in Freeman’s Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, p. 21: ‘Of course the real traveller, whether he goes to study politics or history or language or architecture or anything else, is best pleased when he gets most completely out of the reach of his own countrymen.’

(38) For a brief introduction to the development of mass tourism in the 19th century, see James Buzard, ‘The Grand Tour and After (1660–1940)’, in Hulme and Youngs (eds), Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, pp. 37–52.

(40) Revd J. M. Neale, Notes, Ecclesiological and Picturesque, on Dalmatia, Istria, Styria, with a Visit to Montenegro (London, J. T. Hayes, 1861).

(41) Freeman, Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, pp. 54–5. Neale dedicated his book ‘To His Imperial Apostolic Majesty Francis Joseph I’.

(42) James Creagh, Over the Borders of Christendom and Eslamiah, 2 vols (London, Samuel Tinsley, 1876). Freeman’s scathing critique was published in his article ‘Montenegro’ in Macmillan’s Magazine (January 1876), 275–88 at 277: ‘But enough of such trash as this … Those who can be set against Montenegro and its Prince by such a book as “Over the Borders of Christendom and Eslamiah,” must be already so far gone in the way of bad taste and bad feeling that it can be hardly worthwhile to waste many words upon them.’

(43) Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, Dalmatia and Montenegro, with a Journey to Mostar in Herzegovina and Remarks on the Slavonic Nations; the History of Dalmatia and Ragusa; the Uscocs, &c. &c. (London, John Murray, 1848); Freeman, Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, p. 90; Jason Thompson, ‘Wilkinson, Sir John Gardner (1797–1875)’, ODNB, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29429.

(44) Freeman, Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, p. 55: ‘Saint Michael’s Mount (i.e. Mont-Saint-Michel) has become a popular lion, which can be seen under the vexatious companionship of a guide and a “party”.’

(45) For a brief introduction, see Roy Bridges, ‘Exploration and Travel outside Europe (1720–1914)’, in Hulme and Youngs (eds), Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, pp. 53–69.

(48) Ibid., p. 226.

(49) See, for example, his travels in Normandy: Freeman, Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, pp. 160, 163–4; Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 137: ‘The Cotentin is sadly lacking in railways, so that one cannot trace out a journey exactly.’ According to James Bryce, in Studies in Contemporary Biography, p. 266, Freeman only spoke French ‘with any approach to ease, though he could read freely German, Italian, and modern Greek, and on his tour in Greece made some vigorous speeches to the people in their own tongue’.

(50) There is a suggestion that Freeman became a fan of the railway. See Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 320: ‘I think the railways look rather well.’ Compare Freeman, Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, p. 139: ‘Exmes indeed is one of those unlucky places which, even in the year 1891, remain without the comfort of a railway.’

(51) However, Freeman was always open to new experiences as witnessed by his visit to African-American churches in Baltimore during his tour of the United States: Freeman, Some Impressions of the United States, pp. 170–1. On Freeman and the manliness of the professional historian, see Susan Walton, ‘Charlotte M. Yonge and the “Historic Harem” of Edward Augustus Freeman’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 11, 2 (2006), 226–55.

(52) There are occasional personal notes about food, drink, and customs, See, for example, Freeman, Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, p. 91; Freeman, Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine, pp. 3–4. Perhaps his most extended ethnographical sketches are to be found in his Impressions of the United States.

(54) Ibid., pp. 35–6.

(55) Ibid., p. 61.

(58) Ibid., p. 142.

(59) On the political context, see Vicky Morrisroe, ‘“Eastern History with Western Eyes”: E. A. Freeman, Islam and Orientalism’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 16, 1 (2011), 25–45 at 30.

(60) Freeman, Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, pp. 260–70; compare ‘Letter to Miss Florence Freeman’, dated Spalato, 17 October 1875, in Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, pp.126–8. On Freeman’s attitude to the Eastern Question, see, in addition to William Kelley, Chapter 7, this volume, Morrisroe, ‘Eastern History with Western Eyes’, 25–45. On Freeman’s opinions of the Franco-Prussian War, see, for example, Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, pp. 2–3, 6, 16, 19, 21, 49, 58.

(62) Morrisroe, ‘Eastern History with Western Eyes’, 31 and n. 31, draws attention to a letter from Dr Humphrey Sandwith stationed in Belgrade to Freeman in which he described ‘scenes such as I have read of in the bloody records of the middle ages’.

(65) Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 127. For Freeman’s views on Islam, see Morrisroe, ‘Eastern History with Western Eyes’, 26–7, 37, 39. For Freeman’s views on race, see C. J. W. Parker, ‘The Failure of Liberal Racialism: The Racial Ideas of E. A. Freeman’, Historical Journal, 24, 4 (1981), 825–46.

(66) ‘Letter to Mrs Freeman’ dated Cattaro, 9 October 1875, in Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 99.

(68) Ibid., p. 266.

(70) Freeman resigned from the Saturday Review in protest at its support for Disraeli’s stance on the Eastern Question; Stephenson, ‘E. A. Freeman (1823–1892), a Neglected Commentator on Byzantium and Modern Greece’, 129; Stephens, Life and Letters, vol. 2, p. 146; compare William Kelley, Chapter 7, this volume.

(71) E. A. Freeman, The History and Conquests of the Saracens (Oxford, John Henry & James Parker, 1856); Freeman, The Ottoman Power in Europe.

(73) Sir Gardner Wilkinson was clearly representative of those Westerners who were drawn to the lands ‘beyond Christendom’: see John Jason Thompson, Sir Gardner Wilkinson and His Circle (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1992). For the broader context of Imperial ‘Othering’, see Thompson, Travel Writing, pp. 136–53.

(75) Freeman has been characterised as a ‘professional’ outsider: Young, ‘Charlotte M. Yonge and the “Historic Harem” of Edward Augustus Freeman’, 228.

(77) Bryce, in Studies in Contemporary Biography, p. 267, stressed that Freeman went to ‘endless pains to master the topography of any place he had to deal with’. Rather puzzlingly Bryce also stated (p. 282) that Freeman ‘had no geographical imagination’ and added that his friend found no more pleasure in books of travel than in dramatic poetry.

(78) Freeman’s disputes with Froude and Round are the most notable examples. See, for Froude, Ian Hesketh, Chapter 14, this volume and, for Round, W. R. Powell, John Horace Round: Historian and Gentleman of Essex (Chelmsford, Essex Record Office, 2001), pp. 93–107.

(79) C. R. M., ‘The Late Professor E. A. Freeman and His Services to Geography’, 401. Later in the same piece (p. 403), Freeman’s geographical and geological account of Sicily is praised as ‘perhaps one of the best descriptions ever written on any island’ and Freeman himself is lauded as ‘a great geographer as well as a great historian’.

(80) See, especially, the volume of historical maps that accompanied his Historical Geography of Europe and his comments on the maps in the preface to the first edition of 1880. As an example of Freeman’s use of maps, see his volume on Exeter in the ‘Historic Towns’ series which he co-edited with the Revd William Hunt: E. A. Freeman, Historic Towns: Exeter (London, Longmans, Green, & Co., 1887).

(81) Withers, ‘Place and the “Spatial Turn” in Geography and in History’, 644–50. I am grateful to the editors of the present volume for drawing my attention to Freeman’s credentials as a geographer.