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Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City'The Historian and his Reputation, 1776-1815$
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David Womersley

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198187332

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187332.001.0001

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Gibbon’s Unfinished History

Gibbon’s Unfinished History

(p.175) 5 Gibbon’s Unfinished History
Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City'


Oxford University Press

After completing The Decline and Fall, between 1789 and 1792 Gibbon began composing a work of royal genealogy, The Antiquities of the House of Brunswick, which however he put to one side in the autumn of 1792. This chapter relates both the composition and the abandonment of that work to the fresh twist imparted to the drama of Gibbon's reputation by the French Revolution. Although Gibbon himself very quickly espoused the views of his acquaintance Edmund Burke on events in France, The Decline and Fall leant itself to being construed as the work of a philosophical radical. The Antiquities was begun as an attempt by Gibbon to establish his essential political conservatism, and its abandonment indicates his realisation that so stubborn a task was not achievable by this route.

Keywords:   royal genealogy, French Revolution, radicalism, Edmund Burke, House of Brunswick

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