Cover: Macaulay: The Tragedy of Power, from Harvard University PressCover: Macaulay in HARDCOVER


The Tragedy of Power

Add to Cart

Product Details


$53.00 • £42.95 • €47.50

ISBN 9780674036246

Publication Date: 12/15/2009


624 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

20 halftones

Belknap Press

Not for sale in Indian subcontinent

In this long-awaited study, Robert Sullivan clearly and persuasively explores Thomas Babington Macaulay’s personal life and intellectual development in tandem, a difficult and rare achievement. He presents a probing, convincing, and ultimately devastating portrait of the mind of a liberal imperialist that transforms our understanding of Macaulay. Victorian intellectual history has no similar study. Macaulay is a major accomplishment that makes Sullivan one of the premier Victorianists of his generation. —Frank M. Turner, Yale University

In this boldly original but elegantly executed book, Sullivan coolly subverts many of the central preconceptions through which we have conventionally interpreted Macaulay. By focusing on several aspects of Macaulay’s intellect hitherto discounted or entirely neglected--the formative and intensely personal nature of his classicism, his carefully camouflaged scepticism, his profound psychological disturbances, and not least his consistently ruthless attitudes toward Ireland--Sullivan has produced a more complex--and darker--portrait of the great Victorian than has ever before been conceived. —Ciaran Brady, Trinity College Dublin

[An] exceptional book about the great 19th-century historian Thomas Babington Macaulay...Sullivan’s portrait of the historian-statesman is unimpeachable, based on a deep reading of Macaulay’s voluminous correspondence, journals, speeches, essays, and books. The man who emerges from this detailed portrait is loathsome but also sad. That he was popular in his own age says worlds about emerging values in mid-19th-century England...Enthusiastically recommended; this exceptionally well-written work will please all serious lovers of history.—David Keymer, Library Journal

It is a testament to Sullivan’s complex and sophisticated approach that I ended up both detesting and admiring Macaulay more...This is a fascinating, provocative study. In our era, of citizenship tests and pre-emptive strikes, when what makes, binds or breaks a nation is a pressing concern, Macaulay’s legacy is more instructive than ever to re-examine.—Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

Superbly researched...[An] impressive and subtle book.—Raymond Carr, Spectator

[Sullivan’s] biography is well paced and richly detailed...His book is an absorbing tour through the world of an elite Victorian liberal.—Jeffrey Collins, New Criterion

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

University Press Week logo

Celebrating University Press Week

The week of November 9–15 is University Press Week. This year’s theme is Raise UP, which highlights the role that the university press community plays in elevating authors, subjects, and whole disciplines that bring new perspectives, ideas, and voices to readers around the globe. University Presses were asked to submit titles to a reading list in keeping with this year’s theme