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REVIEWS Anthony Brundage. The People's Historian: John Richard Green and the Writing ofHistory in Victorian England. Westport: Greenwood P, 1994. xiv + 184. $87.00 CDN. Social history has a long tradition ofbeing new, dating back to Voltaire and beyond. It has always affected a certain Cinderella role, virtuously speaking up for the people despite their exclusion by the oppressive establishment of elite-oriented political, military and diplomatic historians. The role is a bit hard to play today, as the young historians of the 1960s who embraced social history in a big way have now risen by seniority to the establishment's commanding heights. But oppressed or not, social history has always been the route to best sellerdom. Macaulay knew this; so did his grand-nephew, G.M. Trevelyan. And so did John Richard Green, though he had to sell the copyright of his Short History of the English People for an advance of some £500. Fortunately his publisher, Alexander Macmillan, was a gentleman, tearing up the original contract and substituting a royalty arrangement when the book took off with sales of 32,000 in its first year alone. It eventually went over half a million and remains in print one hundred twenty years later. When a survey asked the first batch of Labour party M.P.s in 1906 what books had most influenced them, the two historians most frequently mentioned were first Macaulay, and second, Green. It was Green who coined the phrase "drum and trumpet history," still a favorite put-down of conventional history among social historians who have barely heard of him — their tradition of being new perhaps making them less mindful of their forbearers than they should be. Anthony Brundage's useful book is the first serious study of Green. The story of Green's life, well if briefly told here, reads like an unlikely combination of a Trollope and a Hardy novel. Like Jude the Obscure, Green was of working class origins, but unlike Jude he made it into Oxford on a scholarship and into the Church of England priesthood. He pursued his clerical vocation in London's East End Reviews175 slums, permanently damaging his health by his earnest exertions which included seeking out victims of the 1866 cholera epidemic. He was assisted here by local prostitutes, in whose lives he took an interest, noting that of those he surveyed "Some had been driven by sheer want, others by gaiety and the attractions of high wages, others by the 'independence' of the life. I did not find one case of seduction" (38). Green left his slum ministry, partly it seems because of some unspecified sexual guilt. When Green's wife attempted to recover from his friends her husband's letters for Leslie Stephen's published collection, they held some back out of delicacy. Brundage has restored some details of Green's life left out by Stephen for similar reasons, but the unrecovered letters are still tantalizingly missing. Interestingly, Green's siblings were involved in sexual scrapes from which their elder brother helped them to avoid Hardyesque consequences. His sister, brought up in the country, gave birth to an illegitimate child and would not allow it to be baptized. "A magnificent girl, but skittish and hard-mouthed" — so Green described her, rather like a horse auctioneer — she was eventually married by him to one of his Cambridge-educated friends. His brother was expelled from Oxford for having sex with a pawn broker's servant, but Green managed to get him into Cambridge. Long on the lookout for a suitable wife, Green light-heartedly described his requirements to a friend in terms which made him sound like a combination of Mr. Pooter and Mr. Casaubon. But here too, fortunately, Trollope prevails over Hardy. Eventually he found Alice Stopford, a clever, passionate, and energetic partner, researcher, amanuensis and co-author with whom during the six happy years of their marriage he cranked out enormous quantities of work before dying of tuberculosis in 1883 at the age of forty-five. What kind of historian was Green? Brundage is anxious to rescue him from the slur of amateurism, which has often been linked to the practice of social history...


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