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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Macaulay Trevelyan
Born 16 February 1876(1876-02-16)
Welcombe House, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England
Died 21 July 1962 (aged 86)
Cambridge, England
Resting place Holy Trinity Church, Langdale, Cumbria
Nationality British
Occupation Historian

George Macaulay Trevelyan, OM, CBE, FRS, FBA (16 February 1876 [1] – 21 July 1962[2]), was an English historian. Trevelyan was the third son of Sir George Trevelyan, 2nd Baronet, and great-nephew of Thomas Babington Macaulay, whose staunch liberal Whig principles he espoused in accessible works of literate narrative avoiding a consciously dispassionate analysis, that became old-fashioned during his long and productive career.[3] The noted historian E. H. Carr considered Trevelyan to be one of the last historians of the Whig tradition.[4]

Many of his writings promoted the Whig Party, an important aspect of British politics from the 1600s to the mid-1800s, and of its successor, the Liberal Party. Whigs and Liberals believed the common people had a more positive effect on history than did royalty and that democratic government would bring about steady social progress.[3]

Trevelyan's history is engaged and partisan. Of his Garibaldi trilogy, "reeking with bias", he remarked in his essay "Bias in History", "Without bias, I should never have written them at all. For I was moved to write them by a poetical sympathy with the passions of the Italian patriots of the period, which I retrospectively shared."[3]


Early life

Trevelyan was born into Late Victorian Britain in Welcombe, Stratford-on-Avon, the large house and estate owned by his maternal grandfather, Robert Needham Phillips, a wealthy Lancashire merchant and a Liberal MP for Bury. Today Welcombe is a hotel and spa for tourists visiting Shakespeare's birthplace.[3]

Trevelyan's parents used Welcombe as a winter resort after they inherited it in 1890. They looked upon Wallington Hall, the Trevelyan family estate in Northumberland as their real home. When his paternal grandfather, Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, died, George traced his father's steps to Harrow School and then Trinity College, Cambridge.[5] After attending Harrow, where he specialised in history, Trevelyan studied at Trinity, where he was a member of the secret society, the Cambridge Apostles and founder of the still existing Lake Hunt, a hare and hounds chase where both hounds and hares are human.[3] In 1898 he won a fellowship at Trinity with a dissertation that was published the following year as England in the Age of Wycliffe. One Trinity professor, Lord Acton, enchanted the young Trevelyan with his great wisdom and his belief in moral judgement and individual liberty.[3]

Role in education

Trevelyan lectured at Cambridge until 1903 at which point he left academic life. In 1927 he returned to the University to take up a position as Regius Professor of Modern History, where the single student whose doctorate he agreed to supervise was J. H. Plumb (1936). In 1940 he was appointed as Master of Trinity College and served in the post until 1951 when he retired.

Trevelyan declined the Presidency of the British Academy but served as Chancellor of Durham University from 1950 to 1958. Trevelyan College at Durham University is named after him. He won the 1920 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for the biography Lord Grey of the Reform Bill, was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1925, made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1950, and was an honorary doctor of many universities including Cambridge.

Trevelyan was the first president of the Youth Hostels Association and the YHA headquarters are called Trevelyan House in his honour. He worked tirelessly through his career on behalf of the National Trust, in preserving not merely historic houses, but historic landscapes.

Trevelyan's works

G.M. Trevelyan was a prolific author:

  • England in the Age of Wycliffe (1899). The title of this work is somewhat misleading, since it treats of the political, social and religious conditions of England during the later years of Wiclef's life only. Six of the nine chapters are devoted to the years 1377 - 1385, while the last two treat the history of the Lollard from 1382 until the Reformation.[6]
  • England Under the Stuarts (1904).
  • The Poetry and Philosophy of George Meredith (1906).
  • Garibaldi's Defence of the Roman Republic (1907). This volume marks the entry of a new foreign historian in the field of Italian Risorgimento, a period much neglected, or, unworthily treated, outside of Italy. [7]
  • Garibaldi and the Thousand (1909).
  • Garibaldi and the Making of Italy (1911). 10-digit ISBN 1842124730, 13-digit ISBN 978-1842124734
  • The Life of John Bright (1913).
  • Clio: A Muse and Other Essays (1913).
  • Scenes From Italy's War (1919).
  • The Recreations of an Historian (1919).
  • Lord Grey of the Reform Bill (1920).
  • British History in the Nineteenth Century (1922).
  • Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848 (1923).
  • History of England (1926).
  • England Under Queen Anne:
    • Blenheim (1930).
    • Ramillies and the Union with Scotland (1932).
    • The Peace and the Protestant Succession (1934).
  • Sir George Otto Trevelyan: A Memoir (1932).
  • Grey of Fallodon (1937).
  • The English Revolution, 1688-1698 (1938).
  • Trinity College: An Historical Sketch (1943). ISBN 0-903258-01-3
  • English Social History: A Survey of Six Centuries from Chaucer to Queen Victoria (1944). 10-digit ISBN 058248488X, 13-digit ISBN 978-0582484887
  • An Autobiography and Other Essays (1949). ISBN 0-8369-2205-0
  • A Layman's Love of Letters (1954).


  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: June 1876 6d 641 Stratford - George Macaulay Trevelyan
  2. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: September 1962 4a 179 Cambridge, aged 86
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hernon, Jr., Joseph M. "The Last Whig Historian and Consensus History: George Macaulay Trevelyan, 1876-1962." The American Historical Review, 81 (1976): 66-97.
  4. ^ E. H. Carr (2001). "The Historian and His Facts". What is History?. p. 17. ISBN 978033397701.  
  5. ^ Trevelyan, George Macaulay in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  6. ^ Kriehn, George, “England in the Age of Wycliffe" The American Historical Review 5, No. 1. (1899), 120-122.
  7. ^ Grey, Nelson H. “Garibaldi’s Defence of the Roman Republic (1907)." The American Historical Review 14, No 1 (2008): 134-136.

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Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Joseph Thomson
Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Edgar Adrian
Preceded by
The Marquess of Londonderry
Chancellor of the University of Durham
Succeeded by
The Earl of Scarbrough


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

George Macaulay Trevelyan (1876-02-161962-07-21) was an English academic historian whose works reached a wide readership.


  • If the French noblesse had been capable of playing cricket with their peasants, their chateaux would never have been burnt.
    • English Social History, ch. 8. (1942)
  • In those days, before it became scientific, cricket was the best game in the world to watch, with its rapid sequence of amusing incidents, each ball a potential crisis!
    • English Social History, ch. 8. (1942)
  • [Education] has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.
    • English Social History, ch. 18.
  • The dead were and are not. Their place knows them no more and is ours today...The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cockcrow.
    • "Autobiography of an Historian", An Autobiography and Other Essays (1949).

A Shortened History of England (1959)

  • One outcome of the Norman Conquest was the making of the English language. ...the speech of Alfred and Bede, was exiled from hall and bower, from court and cloister, and was despised as a peasant's jargon... It ceased almost, though not quite, to be a written language. ... Now when a language is seldom written and is not an object of interest to scholars, it quickly adapts itself in the mouths of plain people to the needs and uses of life. can be altered much more easily when there are no grammarians to protest. During the three centuries when our native language was a peasant's dialect, it lost its clumsy inflexions and elaborate genders, and acquired the grace, suppleness, and adaptability which are among its chief merits.
  • Their demands were limited and practical, and for that reasonthey successfully initiated a movement that led in the end to yet undreamt-of liberties for all.
  • The Charter was regarded as important because it assigned definite and practical remedies to temporary evils. There was very little that was abstract in its terms, less even than later generations supposed.... A King had been brought to order, not by a posse of reactionary feudalists, but the community of the land under baronial leadership; a tyrant had been subjected to the laws which hitherto it had been his private privilege to administer and to modify at will. A process had begun which was to end in putting the power of the Crown into the hands of the community at large.
    • on the Magna Carta's legacy
  • She regarded it as a first charge of her slender war-budget to see that French and Dutch independence were maintained against Philip. This was secured, partly by English help and by the holding of the seas, and partly by domestic alliance of the Calvinists with Catholic 'politiques' averse to Spanish domination; it followed that an element of liberality and toleration very rare in the Europe of that day made itself felt in France and in Holland in a manner agreeable to Elizabeth's eclectic spirit.
  • In the Stuart era, the English developed for themselves, without foreign participation or example, a system of Parliamentary government, local administration and freedom of speech and person, clean contrary to the prevailing tendencies on the continent, which was moving fast toward regal absolution, centralized bureaucracy, and the subjection of the individual to the State.

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