G. M. Young

English historian

George Malcolm Young (29 April 188218 November 1959) was an English historian, most famous for his long essay on Victorian times in England, Portrait of an Age (1936).



Portrait of an Age (1936)

  • The human mind is still something of a troglodyte. Expelled from one falling cavern, its first thought is to find another.
  • A flight of perplexed unstable minds into the Confessional, into Spiritualism, into strange Eastern Cults.
  • It was one of Lord Salisbury's paradoxes that only uncontentious legislation should be brought before Parliament: if it were contentious, then public opinion was not ripe for it.
  • To attend a place of worship, to abstain from spirits, to read a serious newspaper and put money in the savings bank, was in 1840 as good an ideal as could be set before a man. To pursue it gave him rank as a citizen, the promise of a vote, and a share in a solid civilization.
  • Of historic method, indeed, nothing wiser has ever been said than a word which will be found in Gibbon's youthful Essay on the Study of Literature. Facts, the young sage instructs us, are of three kinds: those which prove nothing beyond themselves, those which serve to illustrate a character or explain a motive, and those which dominate the system and move its springs.

Today and Yesterday (1948)

  • A historian should "go on reading (...) until you can hear people talking. Then you will understand why things happened as they did."[1]
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  1. 'London Addresses I', in G.M. Young, Today and Yesterday: Collected Essays and Addresses (London, 1948), p. 112.