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


  • 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


  • “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
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment