Illustrated English Social History: 1

G. M. Trevelyan

Read April 2004

Trevelyan's is a somewhat old-fashioned, yet very readable account of British history. As the title indicates, his preferred reading of British life is through social (and economic) rather than political structures, which has several advantages. This avoids the trap of reciting facts about irrelevant rulers and focuses on the richly-textured (and sometimes painful) details of ordinary lives. There is still perhaps a little too much emphasis on the upper classes, but this is perhaps excusable given when the book was written (first in 1942).

More significantly, Trevelyan's method is to use imagination to interpolate to create a literary rather than purely factual presentation of history. This is undoubtedly controversial, but it also makes for a more enriching presentation. The presentation of life in the time of Chaucer, and of the British Reformation, are both quite compelling.