Fox presents “The Limits of Historical Inquiry”

Andrew Suiter, Staff Writer

Phillip D. Fox, assistant professor of history at Wayne State College presented “The Limits of Historical: Oliver O’Donovan and Herbert Butterfield on the Ultimate Meaning of the Past,” in Connell Hall, Room 131 on Nov. 4.

Fox’s third presentation and second peer review article was the culmination of his research over the summer of 2018, and is awaiting the review process to be published as a peer-reviewed article.

The presentation dove deep into the Spanish Inquisition and it’s relation to theology and the different outlooks of historians Oliver O’Donovan and Herbert Butterfield.

Fox said that O’Donovan felt that theology must be political and that the government should be a supporting force rather than leading. O’Donovan looked at the whole group of those involved while Butterfield decided to look at the individual.

Fox went on to show that the Butterfield approach to the Spanish Inquisition was to understand the individuals involved in the context at the time.

“Butterfield wanted to acknowledge the constraints on individuals,” Fox said.

He also said that Butterfield urged people to think of the human element and to use caution. The presentation ended in a Q & A session where he answered eager audience members’ questions. Fox agreed with an audience member when they asked if “the way a historian interprets say a lot about themselves.”

“Be critical; just because a book is taught doesn’t mean everyone comes to the same conclusion,” Fox said. “Think about what information you gather and discern what’s right to you.”

Fox also told the audience to make sure to keep their biases in check and to try to listen and understand.

“Nothing is perfectly objective,” Fox said “First, ask why not, whether if it’s true or false or right or wrong. I hope people are having conversations like these ten years from now because I believe they’re important.”

Eric Colvard, assistant professor of history, said he enjoyed the presentation. “It’s a complicated subject, but it’s important to know some of the underlying ideas,” Colvard said.

“I really enjoyed the presentation,” M.J. Waterhouse, a WSC sophomore, said. “Dr. Fox is one of my favorite professors.”