Thomas Babington Macaulay was one of the great English historians of the nineteenth century. He first made his name as an essayist, contributing many articles on a variety of topics to the Edinburgh Review, the leading literary journal of its day. Among the contributions Macaulay made in these essays was setting forth a distinct philosophy of historiography, in which he argued that written history should be more than a catalogue of conspicuous events. It should, he held, also portray events in the everyday lives of common people-something most historians of the day felt was 'beneath the dignity of history.' By insisting that depicting such events was indeed a proper function of the historian, Macaulay showed himself to be not only a historian with an unusually wide vista, but also an anthropologist before his time.
When Macaulay came to write his famous five-volume History of England from the Accession of James II, he gave expression to this philosophy by including in this work a long chapter in which many aspects of English society and culture were surveyed as they stood in the year 1685. This groundbreaking chapter, now all but forgotten, deserves to be rescued from oblivion. It is presented here, standing alone, preceded by a long introduction in which Macaulay's life and career are set forth in detail-highlighting his contributions to English history, politics and letters.