A Commentary on Macaulay's History of England

By Charles Firth | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
MACAULAY'S THIRD CHAPTER

MACAULAY proposed to write the history of the people of England as well as the history of the government. The scheme was to include, he said,

the progress of useful and ornamental arts . . . the rise of religious sects and the changes of literary taste . . . the manners of successive generations . . . even the revolutions which have taken place in dress, furniture, repasts, and public amusements.1

He was not the first person to regard these subjects as part of the stuff of English history, and to desire to see them treated side by side with wars and politics. Boswell records a conversation on history between Dr. Johnson and Dr. Robertson, in which Dr. Johnson said: 'I wish much to see one branch well done, that is the history of manners, of common life.' Nor was Macaulay the first historian who attempted to combine these various subjects with narrative history. In the chapters with which Hume concluded the different divisions of his History he systematically surveyed the social, the economic, and the intellectual life of each succeeding period. In the appendix to his account of the reign of James I he said:

It may not be improper, at this period, to make a pause; and take a survey of the state of the kingdom with regard to government, manners, finances, arms, trade, learning. Where a just notion is not formed of these particulars,

____________________
1
I,2. II2

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