Principal Ornament

Jose Harris

  • G.M. Trevelyan: A life in History by David Cannadine
    HarperCollins, 288 pp, £18.00, September 1992, ISBN 0 00 215872 8

Until this week I had read no work written by G.M. Trevelyan since my schooldays. No Cambridge supervisor that I can recall ever recommended any of his books, and I have certainly never prescribed them to my own students. Like most people, I knew – or thought I knew – that he had defined social history as ‘history with the politics left out’, and that he was one of the chief stuffed carcasses in the mausoleum of Whig history. Yet throughout the first half of this century Trevelyan was the most widely-read historian in England and probably in the world. As a child of the Late Victorian ‘intellectual aristocracy’, as a highly prolific private ‘man of letters’, and later as the Cambridge Regius Professor and Master of Trinity College, he defined and dominated popular understanding of the nations’s common past for more than half a century.

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