William Robertson (historian)

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William Robertson

William Robertson (19 September 172111 June 1793) was a Scottish historian, minister in the Church of Scotland, and Principal of the University of Edinburgh.


  • Commerce tends to wear off those prejudices which maintain distinction and animosity between nations. It softens and polishes the manners of men. It unites them, by one of the strongest of all ties, the desire of supplying their mutual wants.
    • The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V, Vol. I (1769), Sect. I, p. 81
  • In order to complete the history of the human mind, and attain to a perfect knowledge of its nature and operations, we must contemplate man in all those various situations wherein he has been placed. We must follow him in his progress through the different stages of society, as he gradually advances from the infant state of civil life toward its maturity and decline.
    • The History of America, Vol. I (1777), Book IV, pp. 281–282
  • The Glasgow historian, William Robertson, in his An Historical Disquisition Concerning Ancient India (1791) stated, “Many facts have been transmitted to us, which, if they are examined with proper attention, clearly demonstrate that the natives of India were not only more early civilised, but had made greater progress in civilization than any other people…” It was from their ancient writings, he said, that they derived “the most liberal sentiments which they entertain at present, and the wisdom for which they are now celebrated has been transmitted to them from ages very remote.”
    • quoted in Jain, S., & Jain, M. (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts. New Delhi: Ocean Books. vol 4. Introduction

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