G. M. Trevelyan

G. M. Trevelyan bigraphy, stories - Historian

G. M. Trevelyan : biography

16 February 1876 – 21 July 1962

George Macaulay Trevelyan, OM, CBE, FRS, FBA (16 February 1876 GRO Register of Births: June 1876 6d 641 Stratford – George Macaulay Trevelyan – 21 July 1962GRO Register of Deaths: September 1962 4a 179 Cambridge, aged 86), was a British historian. Trevelyan was the third son of Sir George Otto Trevelyan, 2nd Baronet, and great-nephew of Thomas Babington Macaulay, whose staunch liberal Whig principles he espoused in accessible works of literate narrative avoiding a consciously dispassionate analysis, that became old-fashioned during his long and productive career. The noted historian E. H. Carr considered Trevelyan to be one of the last historians of the Whig tradition.

Many of his writings promoted the Whig Party, an important aspect of British politics from the 17th century to the mid-19th century, and its successor, the Liberal Party. Whigs and Liberals believed the common people had a more positive effect on history than did royalty and that democratic government would bring about steady social progress.

Trevelyan’s history is engaged and partisan. Of his Garibaldi trilogy, "reeking with bias", he remarked in his essay "Bias in History", "Without bias, I should never have written them at all. For I was moved to write them by a poetical sympathy with the passions of the Italian patriots of the period, which I retrospectively shared."

Role in education

Trevelyan lectured at Cambridge until 1903 at which point he left academic life. In 1927 he returned to the University to take up a position as Regius Professor of Modern History, where the single student whose doctorate he agreed to supervise was J. H. Plumb (1936). In 1940 he was appointed as Master of Trinity College and served in the post until 1951 when he retired.

Trevelyan declined the Presidency of the British Academy but served as Chancellor of Durham University from 1950 to 1958. Trevelyan College at Durham University is named after him. He won the 1920 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for the biography Lord Grey of the Reform Bill, was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1925, made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1950, and was an honorary doctor of many universities including Cambridge.

Trevelyan’s works

G.M. Trevelyan was a prolific author:

  • England in the Age of Wycliffe (1899). The title of this work is somewhat misleading, since it treats of the political, social and religious conditions of England during the later years of Wiclef’s life only. Six of the nine chapters are devoted to the years 1377–1385, while the last two treat the history of the Lollards from 1382 until the Reformation.Kriehn, George, "England in the Age of Wycliffe": The American Historical Review 5, No. 1. (1899), 120–122.
  • England Under the Stuarts (1904).
  • The Poetry and Philosophy of George Meredith (1906).
  • . This volume marks the entry of a new foreign historian in the field of Italian Risorgimento, a period much neglected, or, unworthily treated, outside of Italy.
  • Garibaldi and the Thousand (1909).
  • Garibaldi and the Making of Italy (1911). ISBN 978-1-84212-473-4
  • The Life of John Bright (1913).
  • Clio: A Muse and Other Essays (1913).
  • Scenes From Italy’s War (1919).
  • The Recreations of an Historian (1919).
  • Lord Grey of the Reform Bill (1920).
  • British History in the Nineteenth Century (1922).
  • Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848 (1923).
  • History of England (1926).
  • England Under Queen Anne:
    • Blenheim (1930).
    • Ramillies and the Union with Scotland (1932).
    • The Peace and the Protestant Succession (1934).
  • Sir George Otto Trevelyan: A Memoir (1932).
  • Grey of Fallodon (1937).
  • The English Revolution, 1688–1698 (1938).
  • Trinity College: An Historical Sketch (1943). ISBN 0-903258-01-3
  • English Social History: A Survey of Six Centuries: Chaucer to Queen Victoria (1942 US and Canada, 1944 UK). ISBN 978-0-582-48488-7
  • An Autobiography and Other Essays (1949). ISBN 0-8369-2205-0
  • A Layman’s Love of Letters (1954).

Other activities

During World War I, he commanded a British Red Cross ambulance unit on the Italian front;Women in the War Zone By Anne Powell his defective eyesight meant he was unfit for military service.

Trevelyan was the first president of the Youth Hostels Association and the YHA headquarters are called Trevelyan House in his honour. He worked tirelessly through his career on behalf of the National Trust, in preserving not merely historic houses, but historic landscapes.

Early life

Trevelyan was born into late Victorian Britain in Welcombe, Stratford-on-Avon, the large house and estate owned by his maternal grandfather, Robert Needham Philips, a wealthy Lancashire merchant and the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Bury. Today Welcombe is a hotel and spa for tourists visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace.

Trevelyan’s parents used Welcombe as a winter resort after they inherited it in 1890. They looked upon Wallington Hall, the Trevelyan family estate in Northumberland as their real home. When his paternal grandfather, Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, died, George traced his father’s steps to Harrow School and then Trinity College, Cambridge. After attending Harrow, where he specialised in history, Trevelyan studied at Trinity, where he was a member of the secret society, the Cambridge Apostles and founder of the still existing Lake Hunt, a hare and hounds chase where both hounds and hares are human. In 1898 he won a fellowship at Trinity with a dissertation that was published the following year as England in the Age of Wycliffe. One Trinity professor, Lord Acton, enchanted the young Trevelyan with his great wisdom and his belief in moral judgement and individual liberty.