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The Republican Virago: Life and Times of Catherine Macaulay, Historian Hardcover – Dec 1992


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press; 1st Edition edition (Dec. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198129785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198129783
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,447,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Republican Virago is not only an excellent portrait of an individual and her times, but is also an example of historical biography at its best. Hill is clearly sympathetic toward her subject and her ideology, yet she can understand why Macaulay aroused such antipathy among contemporaries."--TheHistorian"An interesting, perceptive work....The strength of Hill's book is its analysis of Macaulay's ideas in the context of the radical politics of the age."--Choice

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The subtitle of this book should have been ‘Or, why Mrs. Macaulay was never wrong’.

This is the only biography of Catharine Macaulay and as such if one wants to read about her they will have no choice but to refer to this book. This is unfortunate as the book is deeply flawed. It is far too indulgent to Macaulay and one gets the impression that the reason Hill admires Macaulay is that because she was a woman rather than for any intrinsic merit in her works.

According to Hill, who ever criticised Macaulay always had an ulterior and dishonest motive for doing so. Horace Walpole because his essay on Richard III was not a success and this ensured that he was jealous of the popularity of Macaulay’s history of England. Wilkes was jealous of her too because he was a failed historian. The impression one gets from this book is that Macaulay was almost perfect but that the oppressive patriarchal system of her time prevented a more favourable reception of her work. Hill does not allow a more plausible reason, that perhaps Macaulay was just not a good historian.

However, Hill herself even admits that Macaulay is no longer read now and that even by the early nineteenth century it was being remarked that she was a neglected author. Her history was a polemical, ponderous, pedantic work dedicated to a republican viewpoint rather than a genuine inquiry into the past, and this perhaps gives us a clue why it soon disappeared almost without trace (it was not reprinted until the advent of mass produced print on demands in the 21st century). Hill’s Macaulay was a woman struggling in a man’s world, therefore criticism must be avoided at all costs. A far more objective study is needed.
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