Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain

Bernard Porter writes:

Thomas Babington Macaulay – later Lord Macaulay, and ‘Tom’ to Catherine Hall – was the most influential of all British historians. Sales of the first two volumes of his great History of England, published in 1848, rivalled those of Scott and Dickens. The main reason for his popularity, apart from his literary style, was that he flattered the English by crediting them with a unique history of evolving ‘freedom’. Hall thinks – what might at first glance appear paradoxical – that he also reconciled them to their empire. Thus bolstered, they strode out into the world, confident both of their own national virtue and in their mission to spread it globally. It’s in this sense that Tom Macaulay and his father, Zachary, can be regarded as ‘architects of imperial Britain’.

(LRB 22 November 2012)

Other Titles of Interest