Front Page Titles (by Subject) PREFACE. - A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. I
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PREFACE. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. I 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. I.
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The History of a nation may be written in so many different ways that it may not be useless, in laying these volumes before the public, to state in a few words the plan which I have adopted, and the chief objects at which I have aimed.
I have not attempted to write the history of the period I have chosen year by year, or to give a detailed account of military events or of the minor personal and party incidents which form so large a part of political annals. It has been my object to disengage from the great mass of facts those which relate to the permanent forces of the nation, or which indicate some of the more enduring features of national life. The growth or decline of the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the democracy, of the Church and of Dissent, of the agricultural, the manufacturing, and the commercial interests; the increasing power of Parliament and of the press; the history of political ideas, of art, of manners, and of belief; the changes that have taken place in the social and economical condition of the people; the influences that have modified national character; the relations of the mother country to its dependencies, and the causes that have accelerated or retarded the advancement of the latter, form the main subjects of this book.
In order to do justice to them within moderate limits it is necessary to suppress much that has a purely biographical, party, or military interest; and I have also not hesitated in some cases to depart from the strict order of chronology. The history of an institution or a tendency can only be written by collecting into a single focus facts that are spread over many years, and such matters may be more clearly treated according to the order of subjects than according to the order of time.
It will appear evident, I think, from the foregoing sketch, that this book differs widely from the very valuable history of Lord Stanhope, which covers a great part of the same period. Two writers, dealing with the same country and the same time, must necessarily relate many of the same events; but our plans, our objects, and the classes of facts on which we have especially dwelt, are so very different that our books can hardly, I hope, come into any real competition; and I should much regret if it were thought that the present work had been written in any spirit of rivalry, or with any wish to depreciate the merits of its predecessor. Lord Stanhope was not able to bring to his task the artistic talent, the power, or the philosophical insight of some of his contemporaries; but no one can have studied with care the period about which he wrote without a feeling of deep respect for the range and accuracy of his research, for the very unusual skill which he displayed in the difficult art of selecting from great multitudes of facts those which are truly characteristic and significant, and, above all, for his transparent honesty of purpose, for the fulness and fairness with which he seldom failed to recount the faults of those with whom he agreed and the merits of those from whom he differed. This last quality is one of the rarest in history, and it is especially admirable in a writer who had himself strong party convictions, who passed much of his life in active politics, and who was often called upon to describe contests in which his own ancestors bore a part.
To the great courtesy of the authorities of the French Foreign Office I am indebted for copies of some valuable letters relating to the closing days of Queen Anne; and I must also take this opportunity of acknowledging the unwearied kindness I have received from Sir BernardBurke, Ulster King of Arms, during my investigation of those Irish State Papers which he has arranged so admirably and which he knows so well.
London: November 1877.