The text on this page is from David Lavery, "An Owen Barfield Readers Guide." Seven 15 (1998): 97-112.

History in English Words

History in English Words. London: Methuen and Co., 1926; second ed., London: Faber and Faber 1953; rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1967.

Language has preserved for us the inner, living history of man's soul. It reveals the evolution of consciousness. (History in English Words 14)

Looking back at this rich, fascinating guide to the history of the western world as revealed by etymological reflections on common English words, it seems astonishing, given its erudition and its wisdom, that it could have been written by a man barely twenty eight years of age. Begun before either his first exposure to Rudolf Steiner or completion of the B. Litt thesis at Oxford that would turn into Poetic Diction, History in English Words nevertheless exhibits (in Barfield’s own words) "an implicit theory of the history of consciousness," even though, as he admits, "I certainly wasn't writing with that intention in mind" (OBMM).

Table of Contents

I Philology and the Aryans 11-27 
II The Settlement of Europe 28-43 
III England Before the Reformation 44-58 
IV Modern England 59-80 
V Myth 81-95 
VI Philosophy and Religion 96-117 
VII Devotion 118-138 
VIII Experiment 139-155 
IX Personality and Reason 156-177 
X Mechanism 178-195 
XI Imagination 196-215 
Afterword 216-218