chapter  5
Thomas Babington Macaulay: Writing the History of a Progressive People
Pages 12

A generation ago historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, in a review essay of John Burrow’s A Liberal Descent, posed the question: ‘Who Now Reads Macaulay?’1 Himmelfarb answered her question in the negative and at present that judgement still stands. An icon of English historiography for numerous reasons, it is nonetheless true that Macaulay’s ve volumes on Th e History of England fr om the Accession of James II (1848-61), impossibly popular in the nineteenth century, has lost its readership except for a small band of scholars.2 O en mentioned alongside Edward Gibbon and Frederic William Maitland among the greatest English historians, Macaulay has retained his reputation but not his readers.3 Paradoxical as this situation seems, it does not diminish the contribution that Macaulay made to the establishment of a national story, even if his narrative covered a relatively short time span.