Babington – 1° barone Macaulay
England 25 ottobre 1800 – 28 dicembre 1859)
considerato un bambino prodigio, storico e politico Whig;
figlio primogenito di Zachary Macaulay,
uno scozzese Highlander divenuto governatore e abolizonista;
educato alla scuola privata in Hertfordshire e al Trinity College, Cambridge;
giugno, vince la Chancellor's Gold Medal;
pubblica un saggio su Milton nella Edinburgh
chiamato all'avvocatura, mostra più interesse alla politica che
a una carriera di legale;
anche se non si è mai sposato e non ha avuto figli, si mormora
si sia innamorato di Maria Kinnaird, the
wealthy ward di "Conversation" Sharp;
il marchese di Lansdowne lo invita a divenire membro del parlamento
per il piccolo sobborgo del Calne. His maiden speech was in favor of
abolishing the civil disabilities of the Jews. However, Macaulay made
his name with a series of speeches in favour of parliamentary reform.
dopo l'approvazione del Great Reform Act, diventa MP for Leeds.
In the Reform, Calne's representation was reduced from two to one;
Leeds non è mai stato rappresentato prima ma ora ha due membri;
Though proud to have helped pass the Reform Bill, Macaulay never ceased
to be grateful to his former patron, Lansdowne, who remained a great
friend and political ally.
Secretary to the Board of Control nel governo di Lord Grey;
dopo la promulgazione del Government of India Act, viene nominato
primo Law Member del Governor-General's Council;
si reca in India;
lavorando al Supreme Council of India getta le basi per la fondazione
del bilinguismo convincendo il governatore generale ad adottare l'inglese
come mezzo di istruzione nella più alta educazione, dal sesto
anno di scuola in avanti, piuttosto che sanscrito e persiano usate nelle
istituzioni supportate dalla East India Company.
Facendo ciò egli vuole «educare un popolo che per il momento
non può essere educato dai significati della sua madre lingua»
e così, incorporando l'inglese, egli vede arricchire le lingue
indiane tanto «da poter esse diventare il veicolo per espressioni
europee scientifiche, storiche e letterarie".
Come membro a capo della Law Commission, dedica gli ultimi anni
in India alla creazione del Codice Penale.
[In seguito a all'ammutinamento indiano (1857), la sua
proposta legge criminale rimane inattuata; nel 1860 viene emanato il
Codice penale indiano, seguito (1872) dal Codice di procedura penale
e (1909) dal Codice di procedura civile. Il Codice penale indiano sarà
più tardi riprodotto nella maggior parte delle isole britanniche
e molte leggi sono ancora in vigore.]
tornato in Gran Bretagna, diventa membro del parlamento per
Segretario alla Guerra, creato da Lord Melbourne,
ed è "sworn" del Consiglio Priovato lo stesso anno;
propone l'istituzione della legge sul copyright; la sua proposta, leggermente
modificata, diventa la base della legge sul copyright in tutto il mondo
di lingua inglese per molti decenni; egli afferma che il copyright è
un monopolio e come tale ha generalmente effetti negativi sulla società
dopo la caduta del governo Melbourne si dedica alavori diletteratura;
Lays of Ancient Rome (1842, serie
di ballate popolari composte in India; comprende anche la ballata Ivry
and The Armadae, una composizione giovanile)
torna al suo ufficio di Paymaster-General nell'amministrazione
di Lord John Russell;
alle elezioni perde il suo seggio a Edimburgo;
[Perdita da lui attribuita alla rabbia dei religiosi zeloti circa i
suoi discorsi in favore dell'espansione della concessione annuale al
Maynooth College in Irlanda che istruiva giovani uomini al sacerdozio
cattolico; alcuni osservatori l'hanno invece attribuita per aver trascurato
le esigenze locali;
Storia d'Inghilterra (1848, 2
voll., opera incompiuta)
[Vol. II (anni 1686-88) - pp. 1-594, traduz. Paolo
Emiliani-Giudice - II edizione riveduta dal traduttore - Firenze,
Le Monnier 1860
del 1840 egli iniziò a lavorare a The History of England from
the Accession of James the Second, pubblicando i primi due volumi
nel 1848. Inizialmente aveva previsto di completare l'opera con la fine
del regno di George III. Dopo la pubblicazione
dei primi due volumi, il suo desiderio è di completare il lavoro
con la morte della regina Anne nel 1714.
I volumi III e IV, che riprendono la storia dalla "pace di Ryswick"
(1697), sono pubblicati nel 1855. Tuttavia, alla sua morte nel 1859,
egli stava lavorando al VI volume. Questo volume, portando la History
fino alla morte di William III, venne preparato
per la pubblicazione dalla sorella, Lady Trevelyan,
dopo la sua morte.]
viene eletto Rettore dell'Università di Glasgow, un'incarico
senza doveri amministrativi, spesso assegnato come premio dagli studenti
a famosi uomini politici o scrittori; riceve inoltre "the freedom
of the city";
gli elettori di Edimburgo lo nominano per la rielezone in Parlamento;
egli accetta alle espresse condizioni di non fare campagna elettorale
e di non garantire la sua posizione in tutte le proposte di legge; viene
proprio eletto in questi termini;
comunque si reca raramente a palazzo, ma per problemi di salute,
in verità, la sua debolezza dovuta ad un attacco di cuore lo
obbliga e prorogare di diversi mesi il suo discorso di ringraziamento
gennaio, rassegna le dimissioni;
viene creato barone Macaulay, di Rothley nella contea di Leicester,
ma raramente frequenta la House of Lords.
Macaulay's political writings are famous
for their ringing prose and for its confident, sometimes dogmatic, emphasis
on a progressive model of British history, according to which the country
threw off superstition, autocracy and confusion to create a balanced
constitution and a forward-looking culture combined with freedom of
belief and expression. This model of human progress has been called
the Whig interpretation of history.
This philosophy appears most clearly in the essays Macaulay wrote for
the Edinburgh Review.
But it is also reflected in the History; the most stirring passages
in the work are those that describe the "Glorious Revolution"
of 1688. Macaulay's approach has been criticised by later historians
for its one-sidedness and its complacency. Karl Marx referred to him as
a 'systematic falsifier of history'.
His tendency to see history as a drama led him to treat figures whose
views he opposed as if they were villains, while characters he approved
of were presented as heroes. Macaulay goes to considerable length, for
example, to absolve his main hero William III of any responsibility
for the Glencoe massacre. On
the other hand, this outlook, together with his obvious love of his
subject matter and of English civilization, helps to place the reader
within the age being described in a personal way that no cold neutrality
could, and Macaulay's History is generally recognized as one
of the masterpieces of historical writing and a magisterial literary
triumph only comparable as such to Gibbon and Michelet.
Macaulay sat on the committee to decide
on subjects from British history to be painted in the new Palace of Westminster.
The need to collect reliable portraits of noted figures in British history
for this project led to the foundation of the National
Portrait Gallery, which was formally established on 2 December 1856.
Macaulay was amongst its founder trustees and is honoured with one of
only three busts above the main entrance.
During later years his health made work
increasingly difficult for him. He died in December 1859, aged 59, leaving
his major work, The History of England from the Accession of James
the Second incomplete. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. As
he had no children, his peerage became extinct on his death.
Macaulay's nephew, Sir George
Trevelyan, Bt, wrote a best-selling "Life and Letters" of his famous
uncle, which is still the best complete life of Macaulay. His great-nephew
was the Cambridge historian
G. M. Trevelyan.
as a historian
Lo storico liberale John
Dalberg, 1° barone Acton, lesse History of England
di Lord Macaulay quattro volte e più
tardi descrisse l'autore come "a raw English schoolboy, primed to the
brim with Whig politics" but "not Whiggism only, but Macaulay in particular
that I was so full of".
However after coming under German influence Acton would later find fault
In 1880 John Dalberg, 1°
barone Acton, classed Macaulay (with Edmund Burke
e William Ewart Gladstone) as one "of the
three greatest Liberals".
In 1883 he advised Mary Gladstone "that
the Essays are really flashy and superficial. He was not above par in
literary criticism; his Indian articles will not hold water; and his
two most famous reviews, on Bacon and Ranke,
show his incompetence. The essays are only pleasant reading, and a key
to half the prejudices of our age. It is the History (with one
or two speeches) that is wonderful. He knew nothing respectably before
the seventeenth century, he knew nothing of foreign history, of religion,
philosophy, science, or art. His account of debates has been thrown
into the shade by Ranke, his account of diplomatic affairs, by Klopp.
He is, I am persuaded, grossly, basely unfair. Read him therefore to
find out how it comes that the most unsympathetic of critics can think
him very nearly the greatest of English writers".
In 1885 John
Dalberg, 1° barone Acton, asserted that: "We must never judge
the quality of a teaching by the quality of the Teacher, or allow the
spots to shut out the sun. It would be unjust, and it would deprive
us of nearly all that is great and good in this world. Let me remind
you of Macaulay. He remains to me one of the greatest of all writers
and masters, although I think him utterly base, contemptible and odious
for certain reasons which you know".
In 1888 he wrote that Macaulay "had done more than any writer
in the literature of the world for the propagation of the Liberal faith,
and he was not only the greatest, but the most representative, Englishman
then  living".
The Whig Interpretation of History
(1931) di Herbert Butterfield, attacked
Whig history. The Dutch historian Pieter Geyl,
writing in 1955, considered Macaulay's Essays as "exclusively
and intolerantly English".
George Richard Potter,
Professor and Head of the Department of History at the University of
Sheffield from 1931 to 1965, claimed "In an age of long letters...Macaulay's
hold their own with the best".
Richard Potter also claimed: "For
all his linguistic abilities he seems never to have tried to enter into
sympathetic mental contact with the classical world or with the Europe
of his day. It was an insularity that was impregnable...If his outlook
was insular, however, it was surely British rather than English".
He said this about Macaulay's determination to inspect physically
the places mentioned in his History: "Much of the success of
the famous third chapter of the History which may be said to
have introduced the study of social history, and even...local history,
was due to the intense local knowledge acquired on the spot. As a result
it is a superb, living picture of Great Britain in the latter half of
the seventeenth century...No description of the relief of Londonderry
in a major history of England existed before 1850; after his visit there
and the narrative written round it no other account has been needed...Scotland
came fully into its own and from then until now it has been a commonplace
that English history is incomprehensible without Scotland".
Richard Potter noted that Macaulay
has had many critics, some of whom put forward some salient points about
the deficiency of Macaulay's History but added: "The severity
and the minuteness of the criticism to which the History of England
has been subjected is a measure of its permanent value. It is worth
very ounce of powder and shot that is fired again it". Potter concluded
that "in the long roll of English historical writing from Clarendon
to Trevelyan only Gibbon
has surpassed him in security of reputation and certainty of immortality".
In 1972 J. R. Western
wrote that: "Despite its age and blemishes, Macaulay's History of
England has still to be superseded by a full-scale modern history
of the period".
In 1974 J. P. Kenyon stated that: "As is
often the case, Macaulay had it exactly right".
In 1980 W.
A. Speck wrote that Macaulay's
History of England "still commands respect is that it was based
upon a prodigious amount of research".
A. Speck claims that "Macaulay's
reputation as an historian has never fully recovered from the condemnation
it implicitly received in Herbert Butterfield's devastating attack on
The Whig Interpretation of History. Though he was never cited
by name, there can be no doubt that Macaulay answers to the charges
brought against Whig historians, particularly that they study the past
with reference to the present, class people in the past as those who
furthered progress and those who hindered it, and judge them accordingly".
A. Speck also said that Macaulay
too often "denies the past has its own validity, treating it as being
merely a prelude to his own age. This is especially noticeable in the
third chapter of his History of England, when again and again
he contrasts the backwardness of 1685 with the advances achieved by
1848. Not only does this misuse the past, it also leads him to exaggerate
A. Speck also wrote that Macaulay
"took pains to present the virtues even of a rogue, and he painted the
virtuous warts and all", and that "he was never guilty of suppressing
or distorting evidence to make it support a proposition which he knew
to be untrue".
W. A. Speck
concluded: "What is in fact striking is the extent to which his History
of England at least has survived subsequent research. Although it
is often dismissed as inaccurate, it is hard to pinpoint a passage where
he is categorically in error...his account of events has stood up remarkably
well... His interpretation of the "Glorious Revolution" also
remains the essential starting point for any discussion of that episode...
What has not survived, or has become subdued, is Macaulay's confident
belief in progress. It was a dominant creed in the era of the Great
Exhibition. But Auschwitz and Hiroshima destroyed this century's claim
to moral superiority over its predecessors, while the exhaustion of
natural resources raises serious doubts about the continuation even
of material progress into the next."
In 1981 J. W. Burrow
argued that Macaulay's History of England:
...is not simply partisan; a judgement,
like that of Firth, that Macaulay was always the Whig politician could
hardly be more inapposite. Of course Macaulay thought that the Whigs
of the seventeenth century were correct in their fundamental ideas,
but the hero of the History was William, who, as Macaulay says,
was certainly no Whig...If this was Whiggism it was so only, by the
mid-nineteenth century, in the most extended and inclusive sense,
requiring only an acceptance of parliamentary government and a sense
of gravity of precedent. Butterfield says, rightly, that in the nineteenth
century the Whig view of history became the English view. The chief
agent of that transformation was surely Macaulay, aided, of course,
by the receding relevance of seventeenth-century conflicts to contemporary
politics, as the power of the crown waned further, and the civil disabilities
of Catholics and Dissenters were removed by legislation. The History
is much more than the vindication of a party; it is an attempt to
insinuate a view of politics, pragmatic, reverent, essentially Burkean, informed by a
high, even tumid sense of the worth of public life, yet fully conscious
of its interrelations with the wider progress of society; it embodies
what Hallam had merely asserted, a sense of the privileged possession
by Englishmen of their history, as well as of the epic dignity of
government by discussion. If this was sectarian it was hardly, in
any useful contemporary sense, polemically Whig; it is more like the
sectarianism of English respectability.
In 1982 Gertrude
Himmelfarb wrote that "most professional historians have long
since given up reading Macaulay, as they have given up writing the kind
of history he wrote and thinking about history as he did. Yet there
was a time when anyone with any pretension to cultivation read Macaulay".
Gertrude Himmelfarb also laments
that "the history of the History is a sad testimonial to the
cultural regression of our times".