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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.