The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators

§ 32. Harriet Martineau

The history of the British empire in the nineteenth century has, of necessity, employed many pens; but its documentary materials were only in part accessible, and the difficulty of dissociating historical narrative from political purpose or “tendency” was only to be avoided with difficulty. Harriet Martineau, whose manifold contributions to political and social literature, as well as to journalism and fiction, have found notice elsewhere in this work, in 1848 entered upon the onerous task, begun and abandoned by Charles Knight, of A History of England during the Thirty Years’ Peace, and, notwithstanding a serious interruption, accomplished it before the end of the following year. “Always,” as was well said of her, “a little before her time,” she related the history of an age whose striving after reform was its most marked characteristic in a spirit of moral and intellectual sympathy with its ideas, accompanied by a clear critical estimate of the sum of its achievements; home politics were her chief, but by no means absorbing, concern, and she treated men as well as measures with her habitual candour.