William Robertson (1721-1793)

William Robertson (1721-1793)

Historian and minister of the Church of Scotland

William Robertson studied divinity at the University of Edinburgh. He was appointed minister of the parish of Gladsmuir in East Lothian in 1743 and later of Greyfriars in Edinburgh. In 1745 he was one of the 42 men of the Edinburgh Defence volunteers who enlisted to fight the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stewart. Other volunteers included his fellow minister Alexander Carlyle and the philosopher and historian David Hume. The publication of 'History of Scotland during the reigns of Queen Mary and King James VI' in 1759 ensured his place as an eminent historian. 'History of Charles V' (1769) received praise from both Voltaire and Gibbon. In it he charted the growth and development of the European 'nation states'. He was made Principal of the University of Edinburgh in 1762 and appointed Historiographer Royal for Scotland in 1764. 'History of America' (1777) and 'Historical Disquisition concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India' (1791) displayed his interest in non-European history.

Birth in 1721

William Robertson was baptised on 14 September 1721, the son of William Robertson, minister of Borthwick. The entry in the Old Parish Register for the parish of Borthwick in the county of Midlothian doesn't give his mother's name. It includes three witnesses.

Baptism entry for William Robertson

Baptism entry for William Robertson (43 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 674/1, page 17

Marriage in 1751

Dr William Robertson, minister at Gladsmuir, married Mary Nisbet on 11 August 1751. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Edinburgh includes the name of the minister.

Marriage entry for William Robertson

Marriage entry for William Robertson (42 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-1/48

Death in 1793

The Reverend Principal William Robertson of the University of Edinburgh and one of the ministers of the City of Edinburgh died on 11 June 1793. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Edinburgh gives the date of burial as 14 June, his age as 71 and his last illness as jaundice. The place of interment was 'Back of Mr Adams' tomb'.

Death and burial entry for William Robertson

Death and burial entry for William Robertson (29 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-1/98

Testament of Dr William Robertson

National Records of Scotland, CC8/8/133 pp 520-529

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