CAMDEN, William

William Camden was important both as an antiquarian and a historian, as exemplified, respectively, by his topographical survey Britannia and his Annales rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum regnante Elizabetha (Annals of English and Irish History in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth). Born in London on 2 May 1551 to painter Sampson Camden and his wife Elizabeth, he was educated at Christ's Hospital, St. Paul's School (1564-66), and Oxford University (1566-71)—at Magdalen, Broadgates Hall (Pembroke), and Christ Church—though without receiving the bachelor of arts. Returning to London in 1571 and devoting him­self to antiquarian studies, he became second master at Westminster School in 1575 and headmaster in 1593, where Ben Jonson* and other notables were his students. Queen Elizabeth* appointed him Clarenceux king-of-arms in 1597, prompting a scholarly feud with York Herald Ralph Brooke. His publications include Britannia (1586), a Greek grammar (1597), a list of Westminster Abbey epitaphs (1600), an edition of early English chronicles (1603), assorted Remains (1605), an account of the Gunpowder Plot trial (1607), and the first part (to 1588) of Annales (1615); the latter part appeared posthumously, as did a short history of James I's* reign, various Society of Antiquaries papers, and his cor­respondence. He died on 9 November 1623 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Camden knew many contemporary scholars, including Sir Robert Cotton,* John Selden, and Sir Henry Spelman in England and Isaac Casaubon,* Abraham Ortelius, and Jacques-Auguste de Thou on the Continent. His Britannia contin­ues a tradition including the ancients Strabo and Varro, the Renaissance Italian Flavio Biondo, and Englishmen John Leland and William Lambarde. The first edition addresses only Roman Britain, but Camden gradually enlarged subse­quent editions to include the Anglo-Saxon and Danish periods. Though not directly challenging Geoffrey of Monmouth, Camden rejected the more fantastic elements of British legend. Camden traveled extensively but relied more on secondary sources than Leland. Camden's Annales, which Cotton may have helped write, represents a second tradition including Polybius, Tacitus, and the Renaissance scholars Leonardo Bruni, Francesco Guicciardini,* and de Thou. Camden revived the previously abandoned project in 1608 for King James, who was dissatisfied by George Buchanan* and de Thou's accounts of his mother, Mary Stuart* (Mary Queen of Scots). A continuous, complex narrative based on primary sources, it avoids fictional speeches, recognizes the contingent (as opposed to teleological) nature of history, defends the Anglican establishment, and praises Elizabeth's, and by implication James's management of Parliament and diplomacy. The Camden Society, founded in 1838, honors him with quality editions of primary sources.
H. Trevor-Roper, Queen Elizabeth's First Historian: William Camden and the Begin­nings of English "Civil History," 1971.
D. R. Woolf, The Idea of History in Early Stuart England: Erudition, Ideology, and "The Light of Truth" from the Accession of James I to the Civil War, 1990.
William B. Robison

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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  • Camden, William — ▪ British historian born May 2, 1551, London, Eng. died Nov. 9, 1623, Chislehurst, Kent  English antiquary, a pioneer of historical method, and author of Britannia, the first comprehensive topographical survey of England.       Educated at Christ …   Universalium

  • Camden, William — (1551 1623)    Antiquary and historian, b. in London, and ed. at Christ s Hospital, St. Paul s School, and Oxf., was in 1575 appointed Second Master in Westminster School, and Head Master in 1593, and spent his vacations in travelling over… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Camden, William — (1551 1623)    English antiquary and educator. After study at St. Paul s school and Oxford, he became a teacher and headmaster at Westminster School. In 1597 he became a herald. His employments provided leisure for the antiquarian researches into …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

  • Camden, William — ► (1551 1623) Historiador y arqueólogo inglés. Autor de Britannia, primer estudio topográfico serio de Inglaterra …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • CAMDEN, WILLIAM —    a learned English antiquary, the first and most famous born in London; second master, and eventually head master in Westminster School, during which time he gave proof of his antiquarian knowledge, which led to his appointment as Clarencieux… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • William Camden — (2 May 1551 ndash; 9 November 1623) was an English antiquarian and historian. He wrote the first topographical survey of the island of Great Britain and the first detailed historical account of the reign of Elizabeth I of England. Early years… …   Wikipedia

  • William Camden — (* 2. Mai 1551 in London; † 9. November 1623 in Chislehurst bei London) war ein englischer Historiker und Antiquar. Camden schrieb einen topographischen Überblick über die britische Insel und die erste Darstellung der Regierungszeit El …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William Camden — (2 mai 1551, Londres – 9 novembre 1623) antiquaire anglais, il fut de 1577 à 1597 maître ou directeur de l école de Westminster et devint en 1597 roi d armes de Clarence, fonct …   Wikipédia en Français

  • William Camden — (Londres, 2 de mayo de 1551 ibid, 9 de noviembre de 1623) fue un anticuario e historiador inglés. Obras Sus principales obras fueron: Britannia, una descripción topográfica de Gran Bretaña realizada con el apoyo de Abraham Ortelius, publicada en… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Camden — Camden, William C. de Gran Bretaña, en Inglaterra, uno de los 32 municipios que integran el Gran Londres; 183 700 h. Ciudad del NE de E.U.A., en el estado de Nueva Jersey, frente a Filadelfia; 102 551 h …   Enciclopedia Universal

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