Macaulay and Son


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Architects of Imperial Britain

Catherine Hall

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Thomas Babington Macaulay’s History of England was a phenomenal Victorian best-seller defining a nation’s sense of self, its triumphant rise to a powerfully homogenous nation built on a global empire and its claim to be the modern nation, marking the route to civilization for all others. In this book Catherine Hall explores the emotional, intellectual, and political roots of Zachary Macaulay, the leading abolitionist, and his son Thomas’s visions of race, nation, and empire. The contrasting moments of evangelical humanitarianism and liberal imperialism are read through the writings and careers of the two men.

Catherine Hall is professor of history at University College London. She is the author of the prize-winning Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830–1867.

'Superbly crafted in its scope, both moving as a story and challenging in its analysis, Macaulay and Son is a brilliant achievement. It combines historical biography of the highest order with acute observations and original perspectives garnered from a lifetime's engagement with race, gender, empire and history-writing. The result is Professor Hall's finest book yet.' - Miles Taylor, Director, Institute of Historical Research

'This book is a magnificent achievement, which should attract wide interest beyond an academic readership. It places the elegantly written biographical narratives of the two Macaulays within a broad thematic framework.  And in its focus on questions of ethnicity and race, and on gender issues, it transforms our understanding of the writing of Macaulay’s History of England, and offers a new and pioneering approach to the study of national history.' - Jane Rendall

'In this learned, meticulous and quietly brilliant rumination on the intimate lives of two famously imperial men, Catherine Hall rewrites the narrative of modern Britain and its empire as a history of sentiments organized around the domesticated, yet independent, white man. Scaling up from the small stories of the Macaulays’ family life to the corridors of high politics and parliamentary power, Hall offers a complex set of portraits drawn with a combination of narrative vigor and interpretive sympathy. Nor is this merely a family history.  Macaulay and Son takes up the most pressing questions of the day in all their intricacy, following the entanglements ofhome and empire from Sierra Leone to Calcultta to London and Leeds and back again. Magisterial in scope yet richly textured in every detail, Hall’s study maps the slippages between race and nation and unsettles those comfortable certainties about Englishness, gender and the imperial imagination that  shadow our histories down to the present.' - Antoinette Burton, author of Empire in Question

'In stunning fashion, Macaulay and Son returns to the historical "centre" from the margins, tracing the silences and exclusions, disavowals and psychological displacements that underpinned Thomas Macaulay's iconic History of England and marked a generational shift between two visions of Britain as a reforming nation and liberal imperial state.' - James Epstein, author of Scandal of Colonial Rule: Power and Subversion in the British Atlantic during the Age of Revolution

"Hall describes Macaulay’s family context at some length, analyses it sensitively, and relates it convincingly to his career and work… The result is the most rounded and fascinating biography of a poitical figure (let alone two) that it has ever been my pleasure to read."—Bernard Porter, London Review of Books

"As emotionally haunting as it is intellectually searching."—Michael Kerrigan,

“If Hall’s book inspires some readers to turn back to Macaulay’s essays and History of England, all the better.”—Jacob Heilbrunn, The Daily Beast 

"This is a remarkably valuable and eminently readable book… Catherine Hall has cleverly brought [Zachary and Thomas MaCaulay’s] lives and their work together, uniting them in ways seldom recognised before."—John MacKenzie, BBC History Magazine

“Catherine Hall’s insightful and compelling dual biography of Thomas Babington Macaulay and his father Zachary. . . is able to make the Macaulays illuminate many different historical themes and purposes. . .She confidently locates father and son within their intellectual and political milieu, emphasizing the importance of the Scottish Enlightenment and the stadial theory of human progress.”—David Arthur, Times Literary Supplement

Catherine Hall has built a reputation as one of the preeminent historians of her generation. . . . [She] now adds to her string of seminal publications with what may well be her most polished and masterful book.”The Journal of British Studies

"Catherine Hall tells the story of father and son with consummate skill. Not only is Macaulay and Son important for understanding imperial Britain, it is a beautifully crafted history. Rather than offering a strictly biographical study, Hall draws upon the two men's lives and writings in order to explore key themes.”—James Epestein, Victorian Studies
ISBN: 9780300160239
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
420 pages, 6 x 9
16 pp. b/w illus.
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