ROBERTSON, William. Borthwick, Midlothian 19.9.1721 — Edinburgh 11.6.1793. British (Scottish) Historian. Son of Rev. William R. and Eleanor Pitcairn, educated in Borthwick and Dalkeith. He studied theology at Edinburgh, 1733-41. In 1743-59 minister at Gladsmuir in East Lothian, then in Edinburgh. Rector (Principal) of Edinburgh University (from 1762) and Historiographer of Scotland (from 1763). D.D. 1759. Married 1751 his cousin Mary Nisbet, three sons.
In addition to Scottish and European history also interested in Asian past. Together with Gibbons and Hume he was among the best 18th century historians of the U.K. In the troubled times of Scotland he was a Presbyterian and Whig and an important figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. The Disquisition was one of the first scholarly attempts at the history of the Western relations of ancient India and as such an important pioneer achievement. Robertson knows all available sources and shows always keen understanding and critical acumen with them.
Publications: History of Scotland during the Reigns of Queen Mary and King James VI. 1-3. L. 1759; History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V. 1-3. L. 1769; History of America. 1-2. L. 1777; some lesser works.
– Historical Disquisition concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India and the Progress of Trade with that Country prior to the Discovery of the Passage to it by the Cape of Good Hope. London 1791, 2nd ed. 1794, 4th ed. 384 p. + Index. L. 1804, republished in The Works of William Robertson. Vol. XII. Edinburgh 1819; German tr. by G. Forster 1792, Italian by A. Guernieri 1793.
Sources: *T.S[ecombe], D.N.B. 48, 1896, 425-430; Wikipedia with portrait, bust and silhouette cameo.