The Life of Gibbon

  • Born in England in 1737
  • Eldest and only surviving child of seven.
  • Constantly sick as a child, considered a runt.
  • Neglected by his mother, raised by her sister (his aunt)
  • Raised as Protestant, then turned Catholic in his youth.
  • Traveled around Europe much in his twenties and thirties
  • Fell in love with Suzanne Churchad but never married, no kids.
  • Despite small stature, joins the militia in his twenties and attains the rank of captain.
  • Educated at Magdalin college
  • Settled in London, where he began his most famous book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire after his visit to Rome
  • Published the first volume in 1776
  • Sat in House of Commons between 1774-1783
  • Finished Decline and Fall in 1788
  • Died in 1794

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

  • A history of Rome from the death of Marcus Aurelius in 1453
  • Six volumes
  • Very controversial on the rise of Christianity, saying that it was one of the causes of the downfall of Rome.
  • Encouraged secularism, which caused many people to hate Gibbon
  • First historical work written with style instead of simply stating facts
  • Often considered the greatest historical work written in English

Beliefs

  • Secularism
  • The past provides wisdom, we can learn about the present and future through it
  • Reason above religion
  • Against tyranny, believed in moderation and tolerance
  • History should sound pleasing
  • Rationalist, not a fan of supernatural values
  • Believed in progress
  • “Let us read with method , and propose to ourselves an end to which our studies may point. The use of reading is to aid us in thinking”
  • Did not believe in baths

Quotes

  • “Books are those faithful mirrors that reflect to our minds of sages and heroes”
  • “Corruption , the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty”
  • “History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind”
  • “Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in the world, an hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule”

Impacts on society

  • Helped along enlightened thinking
  • Helped inspire the idea of secularism
  • Discouraged absolutism
  • Helped put higher stock in ability to reason
  • Brought the idea of history and analysis of it into society

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