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Macaulay was the son of Zachary Macaulay, a campaigner against the slave trade. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and trained as a barrister.
He had a varied career as a politician and a writer. First elected to parliament as the Whig M.P. for Calne in 1830, he also sat for Leeds (1832-1834), and Edinburgh (1839-1847 and 1852-1856). Between 1834 and 1838 he served in India as a member of the Supreme Council.
Macaulay was Secretary at War between 1839 and 1841, and Paymaster of the Forces from 1846 to 1847. In government he was competent, and he was renowned as an erudite orator, but Macaulay's main interest was literature. In the 1820s he had been a prolific writer for the Edinburgh Review.
His major work was the four-volume History of England (1848-1855).
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