A General History of England: From the Invasion of the Romans under Julius Cæsar to the Late Revolution in MDCLXXXIII Including the Histories of the Neighboring People and States, so far as they are Connected with That of England.

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by William Guthrie

A General History of England
George Wythe bookplate.jpg
Title not held by The Wolf Law Library
at the College of William & Mary.
Author William Guthrie
Published London: Printed for D. Browne by T. Waller
Date 1744-1751
Language English
Volumes volume set

William Guthrie (1708(?)-1770), educated at King’s College, Aberdeen, was one of the great published authors of the eighteenth century. Beginning his work writing for The Gentleman's Magazine under the pseudonym “Jeffrey Broadbottom.” His work soon became politically focused. He began writing histories. His endeavor was to create historical documentation that was “truly impartial.” [1] He refused to glorify great men of his time or to create fictional narratives just to please his readers. [2] Despite this refusal, he was pensioned by the government in 1745.[3] His pension is part of the reason he was able to write such extensive histories, like A General History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to 1688. His most successful work was published almost a decade later, titled Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar (1770). [4] While Guthrie’s reputation as impartial and accurate has since declined and his works have faced some credibility issues, he is still considered to be a “serious scholar” and one of the great historians of his time. [5]

In the preface of The General History of England Guthrie writes of his belief that “political partisanship had ruined historical writing in England.” [6] In The General History of England, Guthrie tries to go beyond just relaying a series of political events. As he wrote, “particular care will be taken to interweave it with an account of the rise, progress, improvement, or decay of trade, manufacturing, learning, arts and sciences of the English nation, upon a more useful and extensive plan that has hitherto been attempted.” [7] The General History of England is four volumes, and it was published through subscriptions between 1744 and 1752. [8] Of the four volumes, three of them were dedicated to the Tudor period and Stuart period. [9] This reflects “Guthrie’s belief that a new system of liberty, civilization, and economic transformation began to emerge at the end of the 15th century, grew during the sixteenth century and survived the Stuart challenge in the seventeenth.” [10] He also believed that the early Stuart period is the part of English history that is the one most in need of clarification by an impartial historian. [11] Because of the sheer length and content of the series, it did not win him fame, but it did set a new example of history for the Enlightenment period.[12]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Guthrie's history of England & Ralph's continuation 5.v. fol." and given by Thomas Jefferson to his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph. Later appeared on Randolph's 1832 estate inventory as "Guthries History of England 3 [vols.] $15.00." According to the English Short Title Catalogue, Guthrie only published one edition — in London (1744-1751). Both George Wythe's Library on LibraryThing[13] and the Brown Bibliography[14] list Guthrie's History of England.

As yet, the Wolf Law Library has been unable to find a copy of this title.

See also


  1. Laird Okie, "William Guthrie, Enlightenment Historian" The Historian 51, no. 2 (1989): 221-38.
  2. Ibid
  3. David Allen, "Guthrie, William (1708?-1770)" in "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed September 4 2023.
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Laird Okie, "William Guthrie, Enlightenment Historian" The Historian 51, no. 2 (1989): 221-38.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid
  11. Ibid
  12. Ibid.
  13. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on July 17, 2023.
  14. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433.