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.
- Freedom is a powerful force, but it does not advance on the wheels of historical inevitability.
- George W. Bush, as quoted in "Bush Says U.S. Must Give Support to Democratic Revolutions" (15 May 2012), by Kate Andersen Brower, Bloomberg
- Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
- I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph and there's purpose and worth to each and every life.
- Ronald Reagan, at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California (4 November 1991), also the inscription on Reagan's tomb
- Many historians are strongly opposed to the so-called “Whig interpretation” of history, in which you look at the past and try to pick out the threads that lead to the present. They feel it’s much more important to get into the frame of mind of the people who lived at the time you’re writing about. And they have a point. But I would argue that, when it comes to the history of science, a Whig interpretation is much more justifiable. The reason is that science, unlike, say, politics or religion, is a cumulative branch of knowledge. You can say, not merely as a matter of taste, but with sober judgment, that Newton knew more about the world than Aristotle did, and Einstein knew more than Newton did. There really has been progress. And to trace that progress, it makes sense to look at the science of the past and try to pick out modes of thought that either led to progress, or impeded progress.
- We start from scratch, every generation. History does not bend inevitably toward justice, or freedom, or decency, or even stability. History doesn't do that in Hong Kong, or in Moscow, or in Washington or New York City or Los Angeles. History goes where we push it. And if we don’t push, someone else will.