Edward Gibbon

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Edward Gibbon

Portrait, oil on canvas, of Edward Gibbon
by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792)
Born 27 April 1737
Putney, Surrey
Died 16 January 1794(1794-01-16) (aged 56)

Edward Gibbon (8 May 1737[1] – 16 January 1794)[2] was an English historian and Member of Parliament. His most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. The Decline and Fall is known for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its open criticism of Christianity.[3] He was educated at Westminster School. He died of peritonitis in London.

His response to criticism[change | change source]

His attack on Christianity caused several opponents to publish pamphlets against him. Gibbon defended his work with the 1779 publication of, A Vindication ... of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.[4] In the mid-twentieth century one author said that "church historians allow the substantial justness of [Gibbon's] main positions".[5]

References[change | change source]

  1. O.S. 27 April
  2. Gibbon's birthday is 27 April 1737 of the old style (O.S.) Julian calendar; England adopted the new style (N.S.) Gregorian calendar in 1752, and thereafter Gibbon's birthday was celebrated on 8 May 1737 N.S.
  3. The most recent edition, in three volumes, is that of David Womersley. For commentary on Gibbon's irony and insistence on primary sources, see Womersley, "Introduction". Gibbon's caustic view of Christianity is in chapters XV and XVI, and Gibbon rarely neglects to note its influence in the later volumes of the Decline and Fall.
  4. Edward Gibbon (1779). A vindication of some passages in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire: By the author... Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the Strand.. http://books.google.com/?id=tnxbAAAAQAAJ.
  5. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. IV, eds. S.M. Jackson et al. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1952, 483–484. online.
  • Womersley, David, ed. 1994. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 3 vols. London: Penguin.