Henry Hallam

Henry Hallam

Ask a question about 'Henry Hallam'
Start a new discussion about 'Henry Hallam'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Henry Hallam was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...



The only son of John Hallam, canon of Windsor
Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is an affluent suburban town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family....

 and dean of Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, Henry Hallam was educated at Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 and Christ Church, Oxford, graduating in 1799. Called to the bar, he practised for some years on the Oxford circuit; but his tastes were literary, and when, on his father's death in 1812, he inherited a small estate in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

, he gave himself up wholly to academic study. He had become connected with the brilliant band of authors and politicians who led the Whig
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

 party, a connection to which he owed his appointment to the well-paid and easy post of commissioner of stamps; but took no part in politics himself. He was, however, an active supporter of many popular movements—particularly of that which ended in the abolition of the slave trade; and he was sincerely attached to the political principles of the Whigs, both in their popular and in their aristocratic aspects.

Hallam's earliest literary work was undertaken in connection with the great organ of the Whig party, the Edinburgh Review
Edinburgh Review
The Edinburgh Review, founded in 1802, was one of the most influential British magazines of the 19th century. It ceased publication in 1929. The magazine took its Latin motto judex damnatur ubi nocens absolvitur from Publilius Syrus.In 1984, the Scottish cultural magazine New Edinburgh Review,...

, where his review of Scott
Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet, popular throughout much of the world during his time....

's Dryden attracted attention. His first great work, The View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, was produced in 1818, and was followed nine years later by the Constitutional History of England. In 1838–1839 appeared the Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries. These are the three works on which Hallam's fame rests. They took a place in English literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

 which was not seriously challenged until the 20th century. A volume of supplemental notes to his Middle Ages was published in 1843; these facts and dates represent nearly all of Hallam's career. The strongest personal interest in his life was the affliction which befell him in the loss of his children, one after another. His eldest son, Arthur Henry Hallam
Arthur Hallam
Arthur Henry Hallam was an English poet, best known as the subject of a major work, In Memoriam A.H.H., by his best friend and fellow poet, Alfred Tennyson...

--the "A.H.H." of Tennyson's In Memoriam, and by the testimony of his contemporaries a man of the most brilliant promise—died in 1833 at the age of twenty-two. Seventeen years later, his second son, Henry Fitzmaurice Hallam, was cut off like his brother at the very threshold of what might have been a great career. The premature death and high talents of these young men, and the association of one of them with the most popular poem of the age, have made Hallam's family afflictions better known than any other incidents of his life. He survived wife (Julia Maria daughter of Sir Charles Elton
Charles Abraham Elton
Sir Charles Abraham Elton, 6th Baronet was an English officer in the British Army and an author.-Life:Charles was eldest of three sons of the Rev. Sir Abraham Elton, 5th of the Elton Baronets, by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Durbin, alderman of Bristol, and was born at Bristol on 31 October 1778...

), daughter and sons by many years.

Hallam was a fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

, and a trustee of the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

, and enjoyed many other appropriate distinctions. In 1830 he received the gold medal for history, founded by George IV
George IV of the United Kingdom
George IV was the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also of Hanover from the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820 until his own death ten years later...



In 1834 Hallam published The Remains in Prose and Verse of Arthur Henry Hallam, with a Sketch of his Life. In 1852 a selection of Literary Essays and Characters from the Literature of Europe was published.

The Middle Ages is described by Hallam himself as a series of historical dissertations, a comprehensive survey of the chief circumstances that can interest a philosophical inquirer during the period from the 5th to the 15th century. The work consists of nine long chapters, each of which is a complete treatise in itself. The history of France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, of Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, of Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and of the Greek
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 and Saracen
Saracen was a term used by the ancient Romans to refer to a people who lived in desert areas in and around the Roman province of Arabia, and who were distinguished from Arabs. In Europe during the Middle Ages the term was expanded to include Arabs, and then all who professed the religion of Islam...

ic empires, sketched in rapid and general terms, is the subject of five separate chapters. Others deal with the great institutional features of medieval society—the development of the feudal system, of the ecclesiastical system, and of the free political system of England. The last chapter sketches the general state of society, the growth of commerce, manners, and literature in the Middle Ages. The book may be regarded as a general view of early modern history, preparatory to the more detailed treatment of special lines of inquiry carried out in his subsequent works, although Hallam's original intention was to continue the work on the scale on which it had been begun.

The Constitutional History of England takes up the subject at the point at which it had been dropped in the View of the Middle Ages, viz, the accession of Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

, and carries it down to the accession of George III. Hallam stopped here for a characteristic reason, which it is impossible not to respect and to regret. He was unwilling to excite the prejudices of modern politics which seemed to him to run back through the whole period of the reign of George III; nevertheless, he was accused of bias. The Quarterly Review for 1828 contains an article on the Constitutional History, written by Southey
Robert Southey
Robert Southey was an English poet of the Romantic school, one of the so-called "Lake Poets", and Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 to his death in 1843...

, full of reproach. The work, he says. is the "production of a decided partisan," who "rakes in the ashes of long-forgotten and a thousand times buried slanders, for the means of heaping obloquy on all who supported the established institutions of the country." Hallam's view of constitutional history was that it should contain only so much of the political and general history of the time as bears directly on specific changes in the organization of the state, including judicial as well as ecclesiastical institutions. It was his cool treatment of such sanctified names as Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

 and Laud
William Laud
William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645. One of the High Church Caroline divines, he opposed radical forms of Puritanism...

 that provoked the indignation of Southey in the Quarterly, who forgot that the same impartial measure was extended to statesmen on the other side.

If Hallam ever deviated from perfect fairness, it was in the tacit assumption that the 19th century theory of the constitution was the right theory in previous centuries, and that those who departed from it on one side or the other were in the wrong. He did unconsciously antedate the constitution, and it is clear from incidental allusions in his last work that he did not favour the democratic changes he thought to be impending. Hallam, like Macaulay, ultimately referred all political questions to the standard of Whig constitutionalism
Whig history
Whig history is the approach to historiography which presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. In general, Whig historians stress the rise of constitutional government,...

. But he was scrupulously conscientious in collecting and weighing his materials. In this he was helped by his legal training, and it was this which made the Constitutional History one of the standard text-books of English politics.

Literary historian

Like the Constitutional History, the Introduction to the Literature of Europe continues a branch of inquiry which had been opened in the View of the Middle Ages. In the first chapter of the Literature, which is to a great extent supplementary to the last chapter of the Middle Ages, Hallam sketches the state of literature in Europe down to the end of the 14th century: the extinction of ancient learning which followed the fall of the Roman empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and the rise of Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

; the preservation of the Latin language
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 in the services of the church; and the slow revival of letters, which began to show itself soon after the 7th century--"the nadir of the human mind"--had been passed. For the first century and a half of his special period he is mainly occupied with a review of classical learning, and he adopts the plan of taking short decennial periods and noticing the most remarkable works which they produced. The rapid growth of literature in the 16th century compels him to resort to a classification of subjects: in the period 1520–1550 we have separate chapters on ancient literature, theology, speculative philosophy and jurisprudence, the literature of taste, and scientific and miscellaneous literature; and the subdivisions of subjects is carried further of course in the later periods. Thus poetry, the drama and polite literature form the subjects of separate chapters. One inconvenient result of this arrangement is that the same author is scattered over many chapters, according as his works fall within this category or that period of time. Names like Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, Grotius
Hugo Grotius
Hugo Grotius , also known as Huig de Groot, Hugo Grocio or Hugo de Groot, was a jurist in the Dutch Republic. With Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili he laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law...

, Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

 and Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

 appear in half a dozen different places. The individuality of great authors is thus dissipated except when it has been preserved by an occasional sacrifice of the arrangement—and this defect, if it is to be esteemed a defect, is increased by the very sparing references to personal history and character with which Hallam was obliged to content himself.

His plan excluded biographical history, nor is the work, he tells us, to be regarded as one of reference. It is rigidly an account of the books which would make a complete library of the period, arranged according to the date of their publication and the nature of their subjects.

The history of institutions like universities and academies, and that of great popular movements like the Reformation, are of course noticed in their immediate connection with literary results; but Hallam had little taste for the spacious generalization which such subjects suggest. The great qualities displayed in this work have been universally acknowledged—conscientiousness, accuracy, judgment and enormous reading. Not the least striking testimony to Hallam's powers is his mastery over so many diverse forms of intellectual activity. In science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 and theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 and poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 and law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, he is a competent and always a fair if not a profound critic. The bent of his own mind is manifest in his treatment of pure literature and of political speculation—which seems to be inspired with stronger personal interest and a higher sense of power than other parts of his work display. Not less worthy of notice in a literary history is the good sense by which both his learning and his tastes have been held in control. Probably no writer ever possessed a juster view of the relative importance of men and things. The labour devoted to an investigation is with Hallam no excuse for dwelling on the result, unless that is in itself important. He turns away contemptuously from the mere curiosities of literature, and is never tempted to make a display of trivial erudition. Nor do we find that his interest in special studies leads him to assign them a disproportionate place in his general view of the literature of a period.

A philosophical historian

Hallam is generally described as a "philosophical historian." The description is justified not so much by any philosophical quality in his method as by the nature of his subject and his own temper. Hallam is a philosopher to this extent that both in political and in literary history he fixed his attention on results rather than on persons. His conception of history embraced the whole movement of society. Beside that conception the issue of battles and the fate of kings fall into comparative insignificance. "We can trace the pedigree of princes," he reflects, "fill up the catalogue of towns besieged and provinces desolated, describe even the whole pageantry of coronations and festivals, but we cannot recover the genuine history of mankind." But, on the other hand, there is no trace in Hallam of anything like a philosophy of history or society.

Wise and generally melancholy reflections on human nature and political society are not infrequent in his writings, and they arise naturally and incidentally out of the subject he is discussing. His object is the attainment of truth in matters of fact. Sweeping theories of the movement of society, and broad characterizations of particular periods of history seem to have no attraction for him. The view of mankind on which such generalizations are usually based, taking little account of individual character, was distasteful to him. Thus he objects to the use of statistics because they favour the tendency to regard all men as mentally and morally equal. At the same time Hallam by no means assumes the tone of the mere scholar. He is solicitous to show that his point of view is that of the cultivated gentleman and not of the specialist. Thus he tells us that Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne
Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne , February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592, was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism...

 is the first French author whom an English gentleman is ashamed not to have read. In fact, allusions to the necessary studies of a gentleman meet us constantly, reminding us of the unlikely erudition of the schoolboy in Macaulay. Hallam's prejudices, so far as he had any, belong to the same character. His criticism assumes a tone of moral censure when he has to deal with certain extremes of human thought--scepticism in philosophy, atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 in religion and democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

in politics.

External Links