David Hume's great, enduring reputation in philosophy tends to obscure the fact that, among his contemporaries, his history of England was a more successful work. The history covers almost 1800 years. Hume saw English history as an evolution from a government of will to a government of law. Advanced in Hume's masterly prose, this argument continues to make the "History" a valuable study for the modern reader. This Liberty Fund edition is based on the edition of 1778, the last to contain corrections by Hume. The typography has been modernized for ease of reading. Hume's own index to the entire work may be found at the conclusion of volume VI.
State of England – Of Scotland – Of Ireland – Levellers suppressed – Siege of Dublin raised – Tredah stormed – Covenanters – Montrose taken prisoner – Executed – Covenanters – Battle of Dunbar – Of Worcester – King’s escape – The commonwealth – Dutch war – Dissolution of the parliament.
THE CONFUSIONS, which overspread England after the murder of Charles I. proceeded as well from the spirit of refinement and innovation, which agitated the ruling party, as from the dissolution of all that authority, both civil and ecclesiastical, by which the nation had ever been accustomed to be governed. Every man had framed the model of a republic; and, however new it was, or fantastical, he was eager in recommending it to his fellow citizens, or even imposing it by force upon them. Every man had adjusted a system of religion, which, being derived from no traditional authority, was peculiar to himself; and being founded on supposed inspiration, not on any principles of human reason, had no means, besides cant and low rhetoric, by which it could recommend itself to others. The levellers insisted on an equal distribution of power and property, and disclaimed all dependance and subordination.
The most important philosopher ever to write in English, David Hume (1711-1776) — the last of the great triumvirate of “British empiricists” — was also well-known in his own time as an historian and essayist. A master stylist in any genre, Hume's major philosophical works — A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), the Enquiries concerning Human Understanding (1748) and concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), as well as the posthumously published Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1779) — remain widely and deeply influential. Although many of Hume's contemporaries denounced his writings as works of scepticism and atheism, his influence is evident in the moral philosophy and economic writings of his close friend Adam Smith. Hume also awakened Immanuel Kant from his “dogmatic slumbers” and “caused the scales to fall” from Jeremy Bentham's eyes. Charles Darwin counted Hume as a central influence, as did “Darwin's bulldog,” Thomas Henry Huxley. The diverse directions in which these writers took what they gleaned from reading Hume reflect not only the richness of their sources but also the wide range of his empiricism. Today, philosophers recognize Hume as a precursor of contemporary cognitive science, as well as one of the most thoroughgoing exponents of philosophical naturalism.