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Thomas Babington – 1° barone Macaulay

(Leicestershire, England 25 ottobre 1800 – 28 dicembre 1859)

poeta britannico, 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;

1821
giugno, vince la Chancellor's Gold Medal;

1825
pubblica un saggio su Milton nella Edinburgh Review;

1826
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;

1830
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.[2]

1832
dopo l'approvazione del Great Reform Act, diventa MP for Leeds.[2] 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.

1832-33
Secretary to the Board of Control nel governo di Lord Grey;

1833
dopo la promulgazione del Government of India Act, viene nominato primo Law Member del Governor-General's Council;

1834
si reca in India;

1834-38
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.]

1838
tornato in Gran Bretagna, diventa membro del parlamento per Edinburgh;

1839-41
Segretario alla Guerra, creato da Lord Melbourne, ed è "sworn" del Consiglio Priovato lo stesso anno;

1841
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;

1842

Lays of Ancient Rome (1842, serie di ballate popolari composte in India; comprende anche la ballata Ivry and The Armadae, una composizione giovanile)

1846
torna al suo ufficio di Paymaster-General nell'amministrazione di Lord John Russell;

1847
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;

1848

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 ]
[Nel corso 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.]

1849
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";

1852
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 adli elettori;

1856
gennaio, rassegna le dimissioni;

1857
viene creato barone Macaulay, di Rothley nella contea di Leicester, ma raramente frequenta la House of Lords.


1859
28 dicembre, muore.

Da Wikipedia:

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'.[11] 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.

Legacy 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 Macaulay.
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 [1856] 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".
However George 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".
George 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".
W. 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".
W. 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 the differences".
Although W. 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".


 

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