G. M. Trevelyan


George Macaulay Trevelyan (16 February 187621 July 1962) was an English academic historian whose works reached a wide readership.

G. M. Trevelyan


  • If the French noblesse had been capable of playing cricket with their peasants, their chateaux would never have been burnt.
    • English Social History (1942), ch. 8.
  • In those days, before it became scientific, cricket was the best game in the world to watch, with its rapid sequence of amusing incidents, each ball a potential crisis!
    • English Social History (1942), ch. 8.
  • [Education] has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.
    • English Social History (1942), ch. 18.
  • Socrates gave no diplomas or degrees, and would have subjected any disciple who demanded one to a disconcerting catechism on the nature of true knowledge.
  • The dead were and are not. Their place knows them no more and is ours today...The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cockcrow.
    • "Autobiography of an Historian", An Autobiography and Other Essays (1949).

A Shortened History of England (1959)Edit

  • The era when London awoke to find herself the maritime centre of the suddenly expanded globe, was also the era of the Renaissance and the Reformation - movements of intellectual growth and individual self-assertion which proved more congenial to the British than to many other races, and seemed to emancipate the island genius.
    • Introduction
…Britain alone…elaborated a system by which a debating club of elected persons could successfully govern an Empire…
  • Against Machiavelli's princely interpretation of the new nationalism, Britain alone of the great national States successfully held out, turned back the tide of despotism, and elaborated a system by which a debating club of elected persons could successfully govern an Empire in peace and in war.
    • Introduction
  • One outcome of the Norman Conquest was the making of the English language. ...the speech of Alfred and Bede, was exiled from hall and bower, from court and cloister, and was despised as a peasant's jargon... It ceased almost, though not quite, to be a written language. … Now when a language is seldom written and is not an object of interest to scholars, it quickly adapts itself in the mouths of plain people to the needs and uses of life. ...it can be altered much more easily when there are no grammarians to protest. During the three centuries when our native language was a peasant's dialect, it lost its clumsy inflexions and elaborate genders, and acquired the grace, suppleness, and adaptability which are among its chief merits.
  • Their demands were limited and practical, and for that reason they successfully initiated a movement that led in the end to yet undreamt-of liberties for all.
  • The Charter was regarded as important because it assigned definite and practical remedies to temporary evils. There was very little that was abstract in its terms, less even than later generations supposed.... A King had been brought to order, not by a posse of reactionary feudalists, but the community of the land under baronial leadership; a tyrant had been subjected to the laws which hitherto it had been his private privilege to administer and to modify at will. A process had begun which was to end in putting the power of the Crown into the hands of the community at large.
    • on the Magna Carta's legacy
  • She regarded it as a first charge of her slender war-budget to see that French and Dutch independence were maintained against Philip. This was secured, partly by English help and by the holding of the seas, and partly by domestic alliance of the Calvinists with Catholic 'politiques' averse to Spanish domination; it followed that an element of liberality and toleration very rare in the Europe of that day made itself felt in France and in Holland in a manner agreeable to Elizabeth's eclectic spirit.
  • In the Stuart era, the English developed for themselves, without foreign participation or example, a system of Parliamentary government, local administration and freedom of speech and person, clean contrary to the prevailing tendencies on the continent, which was moving fast toward regal absolution, centralized bureaucracy, and the subjection of the individual to the State.

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