The definition of what is history according to Macaulay is, by his own assertion, 'a debatable land' . In his essay on Hallam's work he defines it,"at least in its state of ideal perfection" as a "compound of poetry and philosophy" ; few months before he regarded faultless history as the consequence of an equal division between reason and imagination. These two concepts are like the picture and the map of the same place, none of the two represents reality as it should be: "the picture ... does not enable us to ascertain with accuracy the dimensions, the distances, and the angles. The map is not an imitative work" . It is already possible to discern that the idea of history for Macaulay cannot be defined in absolute terms: in order to understand what history really is, it is necessary to understand the dichotomies which underlie behind it. The essence of Macaulay's work and thought must in fact be investigated in relation to the different opposing concepts which animate the pages of his History of England and his Essays. On a historical and, immediately following, political level, Macaulay's experience has been dedicated to understand and, if possible, conciliate the dichotomies and the antithetic elements which pervaded his time. In order to be able to fully appreciate Macaulay's idea of history and in conjunction with this, the way he put it in practice, it is necessary to investigate the tensions which lie beneath his work. Only investigating the relations between the opposites, between fiction and reality, induction and deduction, reason and imagination and the other elements which animate history, it is possible to discover what Macaulay's thought was and how he tried to implement it.
Even if Macaulay considered that many of the practical as well as theoretical problems rested in the relation between opposing elements, the solution to these issues did not always come from conciliation, but often from balance. Stability was often the fruit, not of uniformity, but instead of the right counter-balance of opposing elements. We can witness this theory in reference to the idea of progress: "the balance of moral and intellectual influence thus established between the nations of Europe is far more important than the balance of political power...The civilised world has thus been preserved from a uniformity of character fatal to all improvement. Competition has produced activity where monopoly would have produced sluggishness" . The first of all the tension can therefore to be considered the one between uniformity and diversity, or, otherwise stated the one between continuity and change. Nonetheless, the choice between one and the other was not always the same, but, in this case as well, it was necessary to establish a balance.
The relationship between continuity and change can be best depicted by the linkage between the government and the nation.
For government, Macaulay meant the set of institutions which regulated the relationships within the society; the nation, instead, was the population of a country with its culture, its set of customs and tradition. He considered that the threat to stability could be derived from the distorted relationship between the citizens and the state. He perceived "anarchy and tyranny - or, as they became in the nineteenth century, revolution and repression - as twin political dangers: the one would come from the success of Radicalism, the other from extreme Toryism" . One party was the embodiment of extreme change and the other the reflection of crystallisation. None of them could lead to stability because the first would have led to the complete disintegration and annihilation of the state, while the other would have brought the govern always more distant to the will of the nation.
In order to explain the healthy relationship between the institutions and the nation, Macaulay established the concept of the so called 'noiseless revolutions': "the circumstances which have most influence on the happiness of mankind, the changes of manners and morals, the transition of communities from poverty to wealth, from knowledge to ignorance, from ferocity to humanity - these are, for the most part, noiseless revolutions" . The only relationship between the state and the citizens which can create prosperity and stability is the one which conciliate the alterations assumed by the nation during the long process of change with the working of the state. Only in this way noiseless revolutions will not turn into violent revolutions. Macaulay backed this assertion with an analysis of the violent revolution of the preceding centuries. In comparing the situation of Britain with that of all the other European state he claimed that the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Great Reform Act of 1832 had brought the government so close to the citizens that harmony and prosperity was everywhere reigning in Great Britain.
Nevertheless the concept of 'noiseless revolutions' is reference to history is remarkable not only because it underlines the idea of continuous progress normal in every stable country, it also evidences the pledge, with an evident critic to all his predecessors, for a social history. Macaulay, in fact argues that until his period very few historians have analysed in depth the customs and cultures of the nation at large. According to him "the perfect historian is he in whose work the character and spirit of an age is exhibited in miniature" . The historian must try to put himself in the mind of the citizens as a tourist should do when visiting a foreign country: he should try to see "ordinary men as they appear in their ordinary business and ordinary pleasures. He must mingle in the crowds of the exchange and the coffee-house" . Another dichotomy has therefore appeared in the contrast between social history and the so called 'great-history'.
The latter leads to another vivid contrast in Macaulay's works, the opposition between the general and the particular. One of the greatest achievements of history writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth century consisted in the possibility of drawing generalisation as opposed to the ancient historians. Macaulay was a great estimator of Francis Bacon; of this philosopher he appreciated the stress he put on the affirmation of the inductive method over the deductive process. In the choice between Plato and the English philosopher, Macaulay had very little doubts. As to science Macaulay considered that it was possible to apply the inductive method to create a sort of science of politics. On the other hand he underlines the possible misconceptions and errors which historians such as David Hume could commit: "the practice of distorting narrative into conformity with theory is a vice not as unfavourable as at a first sight it may appear to the interests of political science" . The favourable view with which Macaulay viewed a possible inductive method in history is not accepted by Jane Millgate who asserts that "Macaulay had, indeed, no coherent philosophy of history, and it would be pointless to attempt to construct one for him" . This assertion bluntly contrasts with the considerations of the essays of 1828 where Macaulay neatly sketches his ideas on the theory of history. Millgate adds that in a letter to Namier of 1839 Macaulay has "no good counter theory" to oppose to Gladstone's interpretation of the relation between the church and the state. Nevertheless, the fact that Macaulay's did not have a theory to oppose to Gladstone can be derived by his application of an inductive method on a field where it was almost impossible to draw abstractions. Another explanation could be considered in relation to the fact that going back to a closer analysis, in a debate between inductive and deductive method, he had probably realized that the blind acceptance of the inductive process and the rejection of deduction were in a sense colliding with his conception of moderation and centrality. Macaulay probably realised that history could not be put at the same level with the rest of sciences, because science it is not. In history cannot be continuous abstraction; if the same models could be applied to every period it would signify that there is no significant change. The possibility of drawing general lessons was to a certain extent similar to the relation between the government and the nation: when too a great noiseless revolution had taken place institutions needed to adapt, to the same extent history had to create new criteria and new generalisation to consider modernity: "history in small fragments, proves anything or nothing, so I believe that it is full of useful and precious instruction when we contemplate it in large portions". He claims for history's utility in 'large portions', not in its universality. This consideration on the value of history is reflected in the condemnation of two political judgements based on the "attempts to achieve precision of definition and rigorous certainty through a form of deductive thinking inappropriate to politics; and the mistake of judging the present from the past" . Both the errors, one peculiar of the Radicals, the other of the Tories were condemned because brought entrenched in themselves a rigour and inflexibility which history had not taught and politics did not need.
Up to this point the dichotomies and antitheses which characteristically form Macaulay's conception of history have been investigated. Nonetheless, above all the tensions and oppositions analyzed, there is still one which cannot be left aside and which most characteristically is represented in all of Macaulay's essays and history. This is the tension between fiction and reality. As already mentioned above he believed that perfect history was a blend of these two elements. Of the two elements, certainly the most striking is fiction. With this term Macaulay does not mean that the historian has to invent new truths, he has to choose and describe the existing historical data in a way that they can show their latent truth: "the facts do not speak for themselves; it is the creative task of the historian to give them a voice. But the historian should do more than speak the truth. He should also present it persuasively" . He claimed that no historian had been able to set an example of how history should have been written: Herodotus invented facts and speeches even if he was able to stimulate the greatest interest in the reader: "the faults of Herodotus are the faults of a simple and imaginative mind" ; Livy is superficial in his description and Xenophon had a "weak head". Only Thucydides managed to satisfy Macaulay's criteria, even if fragile in generalisations. Nonetheless it is evident how strident the personal perspective, the use of imagination and the personal choice of facts considered important is in juxtaposition with the limitations imposed by an inductive method, the same facts, presented in a different way would present different truths: "By a shift of focus in both the selection of facts and the method of their narration history can regain some of its lost vitality and colour" . The shift of focus in the selection of facts and the change of methods are not caused by an inner need of reformation in the way of writing history, they are altered in order to make it more appealing.
The need of making history appealing is certainly one of the most important factors when considering the translation of the theory of history into practice. In the practice of history, in Macaulay's History of England it emerges a great attention to rhetoric, the frequent use of metaphors to create a better and more vivid representation of the scene. Macaulay never invents, but often recreates. Macaulay asserts that with a process of judicious selection, rejection and arrangement, he gives the truth those attractions which have been usurped by fiction. It is present in his writing a vivid struggle between the fact as it is, and the fact as it should be. The result of this last struggle between fiction and reality is once more a work of conciliation between the needs of the truth and the needs of the public.