G. M. Trevelyan: A Life in History (Penguin popular classics)

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9780140264821: G. M. Trevelyan: A Life in History (Penguin popular classics)

George Macaulay Trevelyan (1876-1962) is a name scarcely familiar in most twentieth-century households. Yet during the first half of this century he was the most famous, honored, influential, and widely read historian of his generation. In this compelling volume David Cannadine preserves the memory of this powerful figure in a thoroughly researched biography that draws from a wealth of Trevelyan's own writings and the recollections of those who knew him.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A well-written if not wholly successful effort to revive the reputation of G.M. Trevelyan as a historian. There have been few more born to the craft of history than Trevelyan (1876-1962). A descendant of the English historian Lord Macaulay and the son of historian George Otto Trevelyan, he dedicated himself at an early age to the family tradition. ``The past,'' writes Cannadine (History/Columbia; The Pleasures of the Past, 1989), ``was his inheritance, his passion, his calling, his duty, his art.'' Trevelyan threw himself into it with all the Victorian virtues of his ancestors--stamina, self-discipline, and the appreciation, more common then than now, that history and literature are inseparable. His three-volume life of Garibaldi, his three-volume history of England in the Age of Queen Anne, and his English Social History enjoyed immense sales. In the latter book, he almost pioneered social history or, as he described it, ``the history of the people with the politics left out.'' Cannadine notes that Trevelyan's reputation has been in eclipse for some time: He reflected an earlier era in his belief that the function of history is to illuminate the present in the light of the past, and in his conviction that ``all novelists since Conrad are cads.'' But these ideas, Cannadine notes, arose from ``a mind of remarkable range, power, erudition and creativity,'' and were accompanied by a determination to get inside the minds of his subjects and to see their problems as they saw them. Cannadine doesn't persuade, though, in his attempt to show that Trevelyan's internationalism, constitutionalism, and feeling for the countryside were so emblematic of his era that ``the time in which he lived cannot be properly understood without reference to [his] life and work.'' Cannadine tries hard, but he fails to disprove Trevelyan's own dictum that ``historians, scholars and literary men who have led uneventful and happy lives, seldom afford great subjects for biographies.'' -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

In this thematic biography, noted historian Cannadine ( The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy ) ably analyzes the significance of Trevelyan (1876-1962), the most widely read historian of his generation, whose reputation declined sharply after his death. Cannadine demonstrates that the high expectations of his aristocratic parents and his own great talent stimulated Trevelyan to write a vast number of books, the most successful being English Social History . He sketches the influence of late 19th-century Liberalism on the earnest, high-minded Trevelyan's early work, examines the ways in which subsequent studies reflected "Whig themes of religious toleration and constitutional progress," and shows that the trauma of WW II prompted him to take refuge in writing about rural life. Cannadine assesses the comments of Trevelyan's principal critics, concluding that the historian was neither biased nor superficial, but that his narrative histories ignored new thinkers such as Freud and Weber. Still, Trevelyan should be read, the author argues, for his range, his vision of the past and "the perspective his life and work affords on his own times." Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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