Who was Catharine Macaulay?

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Catharine Macaulay was an eighteenth century English historian. Her most famous work was The History of England from the Accession of James I to that of the Brunswick Line, a multivolume work published over twenty years, with the final volume appearing in 1783. Macaulay is associated with a strand in English (and American) historiography known as Whig history. She argued, as did many intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic, that the English had certain rights that dated to their Anglo-Saxon past, what Englishmen called the "ancient constitution." These liberties, she argued, had been taken by the Normans at the time of the conquest, and all of British history was understood as an attempt to recover them. Macaulay cast the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, especially, in this light, and so contributed to a strain of English political thought (known to historians as "Country" or, in its more radical form, "Commonwealth" ideology.) By the 1760s, these ideas were beginning to coalesce into what has become known as republicanism, and Macaulay's works were eagerly read by Americans throughout they imperial crises of the 1770s. In her own right, she was associated with radical Whigs who sought to expand the franchise and who railed against the allegedly corrupt influence of the ministry of George III in the late eighteenth century.


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