Trevelyan, George Macaulay

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Trevelyan, George Macaulay,

1876–1962, English historian; son of Sir George Otto Trevelyan. Educated at Cambridge, he became professor of modern history there in 1927 and was master of Trinity College from 1940 to 1951. He was a master of the so-called literary school of historical writing, and his reaction against "scientific" history has had tremendous influence. He did not, however, ignore the scientific aspects of historical scholarship; rather he asserted that the historian must elucidate his subject through imaginative speculation, based on all possible evidence, and present it by means of highly developed literary craftsmanship. His most ambitious works are an extended study of Garibaldi (3 vol., 1907–11) and a history of England under Queen Anne (3 vol., 1930–34). He is perhaps better known for his one-volume History of England (1926), his British History in the Nineteenth Century (1922), and England under the Stuarts (1907). Other works include biographies of John Bright (1913), Lord Charles Grey (1920), his father, Sir George Otto Trevelyan (1932), and Lord Grey of Fallodon (1937); The English Revolution, 1688–1689 (1938); English Social History (1942; pub. in an illustrated version in 4 vol., 1949–52); and An Autobiography and Other Essays (1949).


See biography by D. Cannadine (1991); study by J. H. Plumb (1955, repr. 1969).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Trevelyan, George Macaulay


Born Feb. 16, 1876, in Stratford-on-Avon; died July 20, 1962, in Cambridge. English historian. Maternal grandson of T. B. Macaulay and son of the historian G. O. Trevelyan.

Trevelyan was a professor at Cambridge University from 1927 to 1940. His early works illuminated the history of the Risorgi-mento, the national liberation movement in Italy at the end of the 18th century. His next major works were devoted to British history and carried on the traditions of the Liberal Whig school of historiography. Although Trevelyan exalted the Glorious Revolution of 1688, he criticized it for its extremism. Ignoring the revolution’s class content, he reduced it to a struggle for the abstract ideals of freedom and a parliamentary system, and he attributed this struggle to traits of the English national character. Chartism found no reflection in his works on the history of 19th-century Great Britain.

With respect to the methods and tasks of historical science, Trevelyan believed that the sole task of history was to educate people through discourses on the past. Blurring the distinction between historical writing and literature (and later identifying them completely), he gave paramount importance to the emotional effect produced on the reader. He therefore paid great attention to narrative form, portraits, vivid sketches, and details. Trevelyan emphasized the importance of the biographical genre and wrote several biographies of political figures and scholars.


Garibaldi’s Defence of the Roman Republic. New York, 1907.
Garibaldi and the Making of Italy. London, 1921.
Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848. London, 1923.
Garibaldi and the Thousand. London, 1948.
England in the Age of Wycliffe. London, 1909.
British History in the Nineteenth Century, 1782–1901. Londo’n, 1922.
England Under Queen Anne, vols. 1–3. London, 1930–34.
The English Revolution, 1688–1689. New York, 1939.
History of England. London, 1943.
Clio, a Muse, and Other Essays. London, 1913.
Autobiography and Other Essays. London, 1949.
In Russian translation:
Sotsial’naia istoriia Anglii. Moscow, 1959.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.