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4 May 1989
The Blackwell Dictionary of Historians 
edited by John Cannon, R.H.C. Davis, William Doyle and Jack Greene.
Blackwell, 480 pp., £39.95, September 1988, 9780631147084
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Edward Gibbon, Luminous Historian, 1772-1794 
by Patricia Craddock.
Johns Hopkins, 432 pp., £19, February 1989, 0 8018 3720 0
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GibbonMaking History 
by Roy Porter.
Palgrave, 187 pp., £14.95, February 1989, 0 312 02728 1
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Macaulay 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Trafalgar Square, 160 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 9780297794684
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Acton 
by Hugh Tulloch.
Trafalgar Square, 144 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 297 79470 1
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... were very different. Gentlemen wrote history for amusement, edification or renown; and the ambitious or adventurous wrote it for money. This point is hammered home by Patricia Craddock’s book on EdwardGibbon, the second part of a superb and definitive biography, and by these studies of EdwardGibbon, Thomas Babington Macaulay and John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, pioneer volumes in Weidenfeld and ...
23 February 1995
Edward GibbonThe History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vols I-VI 
edited by David Womersley.
Allen Lane, 1114 pp., £75, November 1994, 0 7139 9124 0
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... David Womersley’s massive and elegant edition of Gibbon is the better timed because it comes a century after the edition scholars have been obliged to use as the nearest to a critical text. It was in 1896 that J.B. Bury brought out the first volume of his ...

Writing the History of Middle Earth

Colin Kidd: Edward Gibbon

6 July 2000
Barbarism and Religion Vol 1: The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737-64 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 339 pp., £55, October 1999, 0 521 77921 9
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Barbarism and Religion Vol 2: Narratives of Civil Government 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 422 pp., £55, October 1999, 0 521 77921 9
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... and Franco Venturi. Further afield, his interests as a historian of political thought have extended to ancient Chinese philosophy and the conceptual vocabulary of Maori discourse. The world of EdwardGibbon (1737-94) provides a canvas spacious enough for a work which blends the various themes that have exercised Pocock’s career. For Barbarism and Religion is no narrow biographical study, but ...

The Men from God Knows Where

Maurice Keen: The Hundred Years War

27 April 2000
The Hundred Years War. Vol. II: Trial by Fire 
by Jonathan Sumption.
Faber, 680 pp., £30, August 1999, 0 571 13896 9
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... Like EdwardGibbon, that earlier master of narrative history, Jonathan Sumption went to Magdalen College, Oxford and stayed the course there longer and more successfully than his great predecessor. There are other ...

Byzantine Laments

Barbara Newman: Anna Komnene, Historian

2 March 2017
Anna Komnene: The Life and Work of a Medieval Historian 
by Leonora Neville.
Oxford, 240 pp., £41.99, September 2016, 978 0 19 049817 7
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... before he could bring his unfinished history up to Alexios’s reign. Most Byzantinists, however, have accepted her authorship while punishing her for her transgression. A lurid tale, dating back to EdwardGibbon in 1788, has it that she herself aspired to the throne and, ‘stimulated by ambition and revenge’, plotted to murder her brother John in order to seize it. When her plans were foiled, the ...

Europe, what Europe?

Colin Kidd: J.G.A. Pocock

6 November 2008
The Discovery of Islands: Essays in British History 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 344 pp., £18.99, September 2005, 9780521616454
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Barbarism and Religion. Vol. III: The First Decline and Fall 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 527 pp., £19.99, October 2005, 0 521 67233 3
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Barbarism and Religion. Vol. IV: Barbarians, Savages and Empires 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 372 pp., £17.99, February 2008, 978 0 521 72101 1
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... mountains if they ever reached them.’ Pocock’s conception of Europe as an open-ended ‘peninsula of the Eurasian land-mass’ is one of the keys to appreciating his vast, multi-volume project on EdwardGibbon and his contexts. The subject matter of the sequence, titled Barbarism and Religion, is not simply Gibbon’s masterwork, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88): it ...

The Ironist

J.G.A. Pocock: Gibbon​ under Fire

14 November 2002
Gibbon​ and the ‘Watchmen of the Holy City’: The Historian and His Reputation 1776-1815 
by David Womersley.
Oxford, 452 pp., £65, January 2002, 0 19 818733 5
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... Since two pioneering studies appeared in 1954, Arnaldo Momigliano’s ‘Gibbon’s Contribution to Historical Method’, and Giuseppe Giarrizzo’s EdwardGibbon e la cultura europea del Settecento, the historian of the Roman Empire has himself become the object of serious historical study. It can still be maintained that his work is, in D.R. Woolf’s words ...

Diary

R.W. Johnson: Magdalen College

19 November 2009
... about the physical surroundings. Intellectually, the college remained sunk in backwardness and Tory reaction. Brockliss attempts the usual throat-clearing defence against the damning verdict of EdwardGibbon, who went up in 1752. He said he spent an ‘idle and unprofitable’ time there, and spoke of the fellows as ‘decent easy men, who supinely enjoyed the gifts of the founder: their days were ...

At least that was the idea

Thomas Keymer: Johnson and Boswell’s Club

10 October 2019
The Club: Johnson, Boswell and the Friends who Shaped an Age 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 488 pp., £20, April, 978 0 300 21790 2
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... into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful had already appeared but whose career as a political orator and thinker was yet to take off. Other heavyweights joined a few years later: EdwardGibbon was made a member in 1774 and Adam Smith in 1775. The importance of other members, such as James Boswell and the pioneering linguistician William Jones, was recognised only posthumously ...
12 July 1990
The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia 
edited by Denis Sinor.
Cambridge, 518 pp., £60, March 1990, 0 521 24304 1
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... served up in a thin soup of Theory of Nomadism. All one needs for this is an armchair and a few books. Any number can play the game, though for some reason a long tradition of British writers from EdwardGibbon to Bruce Chatwin have proved particularly good at it. Perhaps the Hobbit-like scale of British life irritates beyond endurance many who actually yearn to be sleeping out under the stars where ...

Goose Girl

Josephine Quinn: Empress Theodora

3 May 2017
Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint 
by David Potter.
Oxford, 277 pp., £17.99, January 2016, 978 0 19 974076 5
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... Justinian of turning important state business over to his wife he undermined the emperor’s competence. But his claims have been treated as scholarly fact for far too long: as early as the 1780s EdwardGibbon declared that ‘in the exercise of supreme power, the first act of Justinian was to divide it with the woman whom he loved, the famous Theodora, whose strange elevation cannot be applauded as ...

He Couldn’t Stop Himself

Michael Kulikowski: Justinian’s Wars

21 March 2019
The Codex of Justinian 
translated by Fred H. Blume, edited by Bruce W. Frier.
Cambridge, three vols, 2963 pp., £450, May 2016
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... of a bear-keeper and an actress, and he countered it with salacious defamation. ‘Her venal charms were abandoned to a promiscuous crowd of citizens and strangers of every rank,’ in the words of EdwardGibbon, a worthy successor to Procopius, though he regretted that ‘her murmurs, her pleasures and her arts must be veiled in the obscurity of a learned language.’ The convent she founded for ...

A Cheat, a Sharper and a Swindler

Brian Young: Warren Hastings

24 May 2001
Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings 
by Jeremy Bernstein.
Aurum, 319 pp., £19.99, March 2001, 1 85410 753 4
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... grandson, Louis Mountbatten. The beginnings of an empire in the East had been laid out by Hastings, the most able classical scholar of a Westminster generation which included the imperfectly educated EdwardGibbon, who would later prove sympathetic to the public plight of an exschoolfellow. It was also classically-educated administrators, rather more than the last Viceroy (an inept naval cadet), who ...

In Her Philosopher’s Cloak

Barbara Graziosi: Hypatia

16 August 2017
Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher 
by Edward​ J. Watts.
Oxford, 205 pp., £19.99, April 2017, 978 0 19 021003 8
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... of Peter the reader, and a troop of savage and merciless fanatics: her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames.’ This is Gibbon’s description of the murder of the mathematician and philosopher Hypatia in 415 ad. Some details stem from his imagination (‘her quivering limbs’); some from mistranslated Greek (his ‘oyster ...
18 August 1983
The History Men: The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance 
by John Kenyon.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.50, March 1983, 0 297 78081 6
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... explanation and philosophy. The names of contemporaries blend with those of the past. The result is piquant. It is odd to think of Geoffrey Elton, Hugh Trevor-Roper and Lewis Namier as one thinks of Edward Freeman, Samuel Gardner and EdwardGibbon, humanised and distanced at the same time. Vanity and virtue, foolishness and brilliance rub shoulders. One imagines one has heard it all before, but the ...

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