Thomas B. Macaulay

Thomas B. Macaulay books and biography

Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay

Thomas Macaulay
Thomas Macaulay
Thomas Babington Macaulay at the age of forty-nine — after an engraving by W. Holl, from a drawing by George Richmond
Thomas Babington Macaulay at the age of forty-nine — after an engraving by W. Holl, from a drawing by George Richmond

Thomas Babington (or Babbington) Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay, PC (October 25, 1800 – December 28, 1859) was a nineteenth-century English poet, historian and Whig politician. He wrote extensively as an essayist and reviewer, and on British history.



The son of Zachary Macaulay, a British colonial Edinburgh Review. In 1826 he was called to the bar, but showed more interest in a political than a legal career.

Macaulay as a politician

In 1830 he became a Member of Parliament for the pocket borough of Calne. He made his name with a series of speeches in favour of parliamentary reform, attacking such inequalities as the exclusion of Jews. [1] After the Great Reform Act was passed, he became MP for Leeds.


Macaulay was Secretary to the Board of Control from 1832 until 1833. After the passing of the Government of India Act 1833, he was appointed as the first Law Member of the Governor-General's Council. He went to India in 1834. Macaulay believed in European, especially British, superiority over all things Oriental, not without convictions justified by the circumstances. Serving on the Supreme Council of India between 1834 and 1838 Macaulay was instrumental in creating the foundations of bilingual colonial India, by convincing the Governor-General to adopt English as the medium of instruction in higher education, from the sixth year of schooling onwards, rather than Sanskrit or Arabic then used in the institutions supported by the British East India Company.

Macaulay's criminal law system was enacted immediately in the aftermath of the Indian rebellion of 1857. It was probably the only systematic code of law in the world. It approaches law in a comprehensive manner that needs little change even after nearly two centuries- in spite of the advances in technology, no "new" category of crime has come into existence since Macaulay. It included the three major codes - The Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1872 and the Civil Procedure Code, 1909. The Indian Penal Code was later reproduced in most other British colonies – and to date many of these laws are still in places as far apart as Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

The term Macaulay's Children is used to refer to people born of Indian ancestry who adopt Western culture as a lifestyle. The term is usually used in a derogatory fashion, and the connotation is one of disloyalty to one's country and one's heritage. The passage to which the term refers is from his Minute on Indian Education, delivered in 1835. It reads, "It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.".[2]

Later career

Returning to Britain in 1838, he became MP for Edinburgh. He was made Secretary at War in 1839. After the fall of Lord Melbourne's government Macaulay devoted more time to literary work, but returned to office as Paymaster General in Lord John Russell's administration.

In 1841 Macaulay addressed the issue of copyright law. Macaulay's position, slightly modified, became the basis of copyright law in the English speaking world for many decades. Macaulay argued that copyright is a monopoly and as such has generally negative effects on society.[3]

In the election of 1847 he lost his seat in Edinburgh because of his neglect of local issues. In 1849 he was elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow and he also received the freedom of the city. In 1852 his party returned to office. He was offered a seat, but suffered a heart attack which seriously weakened him. He was raised to the Peerage in 1857 as Baron Macaulay, of Rothley in the County of Leicester, but seldom attended the House of Lords. His health made work increasingly difficult for him, and he was unable to complete his major work, The History of England, before his death in 1859. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Macaulay's great-nephew was the historian G. M. Trevelyan.

Literary works

During his first period out of office he composed the Lays of Ancient Rome, a series of very popular ballads about heroic episodes in Roman history. The most famous of them, Horatius, concerns the lone heroism of Horatius Cocles. It contains the often-quoted lines:

Then out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:
"To every man upon this earth death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods."

During the 1840s he began work on his most famous history, the History of England from the accession of James II, publishing the first two volumes in 1848. The next two volumes appeared in 1855. He is said to have completed the final volumes of the history at Greenwood Lodge, Ditton Marsh, Thames Ditton, which he rented in 1854. He had only reached the reign of King William III when he died.

The history is famous for its brilliant ringing prose and for its confident, sometimes dogmatic, emphasis on a progressive model of British history, according to which the country threw off superstition, autocracy and confusion to create a balanced constitution and a forward-looking culture combined with freedom of belief and expression. This model of human progress has been called the Whig interpretation of history. Macaulay's approach has been criticised by later historians for its one sidedness and its complacency. His tendency to see history as a drama led him to treat figures whose views he opposed as if they were villains, while his approved characters were presented as heroes. Macaulay goes to considerable length, for example, to absolve his main hero William III of any responsibility for the Glencoe massacre.


Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay
  • "We are free, we are civilised, to little purpose, if we grudge to any portion of the human race an equal measure of freedom and civilisation" On John Dryden. 1828.


  1. ^ Macaulay's speech on the exclusion of Jews from parliament
  2. ^ Macaulay's "minute on education" arguing for the use of English in India
  3. ^ Macaulay's speeches on copyright law


Thomas Macaulay
Thomas Macaulay
  • Works by Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay at Project Gutenberg
    • Lays of Ancient Rome
    • The History of England from the Accession of James II, 5 vols. (1848) [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]
    • Critical and Historical Essays, 2 vols., edited by Alexander James Grieve. [9],[10]
    • The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay, 4 vols. [11], [12], [13], [14]
    • Machiavelli

See also

  • Whig history Further explains the Whig interpretation of history that Macaulay espoused.
  • Thomas Sturge was an intimate friend of Lord Macaulay.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Sponsored Links

Critical And Historical Essays

Critical And Historical Essays

Critical And Historical Essays Volume 2

The History Of England From The Accession Of James

The Writings And Speeches Of Lord Macaulay V.4

message of the week Message of The Week

Bookyards Youtube channel is now active. The link to our Youtube page is here.

If you have a website or blog and you want to link to Bookyards. You can use/get our embed code at the following link.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Bookyards Facebook, Tumblr, Blog, and Twitter sites are now active. For updates, free ebooks, and for commentary on current news and events on all things books, please go to the following:

Bookyards at Facebook

Bookyards at Twitter

Bookyards at Pinterest

Bookyards atTumblr

Bookyards blog

message of the daySponsored Links