This article places the works of American Romantic history in the tradition of the nineteenth-century novel. The result is a reframing of a strand of historiography that, for all its great men and its laws of progress, has at its core a realist negation of the freedoms and imaginative possibilities associated with the Romantic. However, this apparent tension between romance and the real ought to be seen as the dialectical face of a historicism that sought to master temporality by ending it with the arrival of the modern. The shifting narrative tenses of both realism and Romantic history stage a debate between epistemological and aesthetic impulses that the affirmation of the existent resolves.

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