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Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron

Macaulay, Thomas Babington, 1st Baron, 1800–1859, English historian and author, b. Leicestershire, educated at Cambridge. After the success of his essay on Milton in the Edinburgh Review (Aug., 1825), he contributed regularly to that journal. He was called to the bar in 1826 and, elected to Parliament in 1830, distinguished himself as a Whig orator. In India, 1834–38, as a member of the supreme council of the East India Company he reformed the Indian educational system and composed a legal code for the colony. On his return to England, Macaulay devoted himself to writing history, but returned to public office as secretary of war (1839–41), paymaster of the forces (1846–47), and member of Parliament (1839–47, 1852–56). In 1857 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Macaulay of Rothley. Macaulay's greatest work and one of the great works of the 19th cent. was The History of England from the Accession of James the Second (5 vol., 1849–61). Its brilliant narrative style and its vivid recreation of the social world of the 17th cent. made it an unprecedented success. The work has been criticized, however, for its failure to achieve objectivity, primarily because of Macaulay's Whig and Protestant bias. He also wrote several notable short biographical essays on Bacon, Johnson, Warren Hastings, and others. His poetical work, the Lays of Ancient Rome (1842), celebrated the great events of Roman history.

See his letters, ed. by T. Pinney (6 vol., 1974–77); Sir G. O. Trevelyan (his nephew), The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay (1876; repr., 2 vol., 1961); biographies by R. C. Beatty (1938, repr. 1971), J. Clive (1987), O. D. Edwards (1988), and R. E. Sullivan (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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