ROBERTSON, William (1721-1793). The History of America. The Twelfth Edition. In which is included the Posthumous Volume, Containing a History of Virginia, to the Year 1668; and of New England, to the Year 1652. London: For Cadwell and Davies, 1812.
4 volumes. 8vo., (8 ½ x 5 ½ inches). Fine folding engraved frontispiece map in volumes one and two by Thomas Kitchin, fine folding engraved “Map of the Gulf of Mexico, the Islands and Countries Adjacent,” also by Kitchin, and folding engraved plate depicting Native American symbols in volume one (one or two short tears, scattered spotting). Contemporary half tan calf, marbled boards (a bit worn with some loss to extremities).
Twelfth edition (first published in 1777). The first four volumes which are concerned with the history of the Americas, of a twelve-volume set composing “The Works of William Robertson.” Robertson “is regarded, along with David Hume and Edward Gibbon, as one of the most important British historians of the 18th century…Robertson’s histories reflect his interest in social theory; they stress the importance of material and environmental factors in determining the course of civilization. His writings were influential in the 19th century but received little critical attention during the 20th century” (Encyclopedia Brittannica).
“The History of America has five major foci: the explorations of Columbus and his epigoni in the west Indies, the conquest of Mexico, the conquest of Peru, the general anthropology of American aboriginal cultures, and – posthumously added to later editions – the histories of the colonies in Virginia (to 1688) and New England (to 1652). In common with the thought of the Enlightenment, Robertson accepted the evolution of human society as the essential fact of primary importance. In explanation of his concern with the American Indians he wrote: ‘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 towards its maturity and decline’ (Robertson 1812:I: 262)” (Hoebel in American Anthropologist, 1960).