The History of England - Vols. 1 to 6

BOOK: The History of England - Vols. 1 to 6
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The Online Library of Liberty

A Project Of Liberty Fund, Inc.

David Hume,
The History of England, vol. 1

The Online Library Of Liberty

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Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1

Edition Used:

The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688,
Foreword by William B. Todd, 6 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1983). Vol. 1.

David Hume

William B. Todd

About This Title:

Volume 1 of “Hume’s great
History of England
the theme of which is liberty, above all English constitutional development from the Anglo-Saxon period to the Revolution of 1688. This Liberty Fund edition is based on the edition of 1778, the last to contain corrections by Hume.

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Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1

About Liberty Fund:

Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.

Copyright Information:

The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.

Fair Use Statement:

This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

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Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1

Table Of Contents


The Life of David Hume, Esq.: Written By Himself

Letter From Adam Smith, Ll.d. to William Strahan, Esq.

I: The Britons

II. The Anglo-saxons

III: Ethelred

Appendix I: The Anglo-saxon Government and Manners

IV: William the Conqueror

V: William Rufus

VI: Henry I

VII: Stephen

VIII: Henry Ii

IX: Henry Ii

X: Richard I

XI: John

Appendix II: The Feudal and Anglo-norman Government and Manners

This portrait of the author is provided in all the earliest editions of his History. The
reversal of letters in the word “philosophy” remains uncorrected throughout.

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Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1

[Back to Table of Contents]


When david hume began his
History of England
the undertaking came, not from any sudden resolve nor as an entirely new enterprise, but as one possibly contemplated thirteen years before, in 1739, probably attempted several times thereafter, and certainly considered, at least as a corollary discipline, in a philosophical discourse published in 1748. Even so, any concerted effort long sustained necessarily awaited appropriate conditions: all happily combining for Hume upon his election, January, 1752, as Keeper of the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh. With this appointment the author finally had “a genteel-office,” ready access to a collection of some thirty thousand volumes, and, no less desirable, leisure indefinitely extended to pursue his research. Heretofore, by mere exertion of his own commanding intellect, philosopher Hume had more than once set forth what he perceived to be the “constant and universal principles of human nature.” Now, as a philosophical historian, he could ascertain from dreary chronicles all the aberrations of human behavior as there exhibited in “wars, intrigues, factions, and revolutions.” These and other vagaries, previously recorded simply as odd phenomena, in Hume’s more coherent view constituted a varied range of “materials” documenting the “science of man.”

Once intent upon a history so formulated, the immediate question for this author was where to begin. In his own
(an essay prefixed to the first, 1778, posthumous edition of the
and so reprinted here), Hume ingenuously speaks of being

“frightened” away from the very start—that is, from the time of Caesar’s invasion—and so at once passing over seventeen hundred years to “the accession of the House of Stuart [1603], an epoch when, I thought, the misrepresentations of faction began chiefly to take place.” Indeed this was Hume’s final decision, though he earlier admitted in a letter to Adam Smith, 24 September 1752, some inclination to commence with the preceding Tudor “epoch” [1485].

I confess, I was once of the same Opinion with you, & thought that the best Period to begin an English History was about Henry the 7th. But you will please to observe, that the Change, which then happen’d in public Affairs, was very insensible, and did not display its Influence till many Years afterwards. Twas under James that the House of Commons began first to raise their Head, & then the Quarrel betwixt Privilege & Prerogative commenc’d. The Government, no longer opprest by the enormous Authority of the Crown, display’d its Genius; and the Factions, which then arose, having an Influence on our present Affairs, form the most curious, interesting, & instructive Part of our History. . . . I confess, that the Subject appears to me very fine;

& I enter upon it with great Ardour & Pleasure. You need not doubt of my Perseverance.

For a historian tracing, in one period or another, the progress or decline of human welfare, the “influence” twice mentioned in the letter to Smith eventually required a

BOOK: The History of England - Vols. 1 to 6
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