Skip to main content

Samuel Rawson Gardiner

Samuel Rawson Gardiner

The English historian Samuel Rawson Gardiner (1829-1902) was a major historian of the Puritan revolution. His work is a lengthy, detailed, and well-researched study of a brief but significant period in English history.

Samuel Rawson Gardiner was born at Alresford, Hampshire, on March 4, 1829. Educated at Winchester and Christ Church, Oxford, he was professor of modern history at Kings College, London, from 1871 to 1885 and was elected fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, in 1884.

Gardiner's historical writings dealing with the Puritan revolution cover the years 1603 to 1660: History of England from the Accession of James I to the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1603-1642(10 vols., 1863-1882), History of the Civil War, 1642-1649 (3 vols., 1886-1891), and History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, 1649-1660 (3 vols., 1895-1901). The last two volumes of his final work were completed by Charles Firth as The Last Years of the Protectorate (1909).

Perhaps Gardiner was interested in the Puritan revolution because of his own descent from Oliver Cromwell, although this relation in no way caused a biased account. While critics questioned his method and judgment in his earlier volumes, he was highly respected by the late 1870s, especially for his extensive use of manuscript sources from the archives and private collections in England and Europe. His treatment of the period 1603 to 1660 is exhaustive, and his handling of special areas shows sympathy and great breadth of imagination. His treatment of constitutional history shows knowledge of the political philosophy and the utopian idealism of the time. He was interested in the subject of religious toleration and made use of the works of obscure pamphleteers. In his analysis of the causes of the civil war he deals with human motives and political conduct with great perception. His careful analysis of human character is seen in his portrayals of James I, Archbishop Laud, and Cromwell. The work as a whole has a clear and unadorned style, but it lacks force and enthusiasm and often suffers from excessive detail.

Gardiner's lesser works, often more specialized treatments of 17th-century problems, include Prince Charles and the Spanish Marriage (1869), What Gunpowder Plot Was (1897), Oliver Cromwell (1901), and several edited collections of documents. His reputation as a historian was acknowledged by honorary degrees from Oxford, Edinburgh, and Göttingen. Gardiner died on Feb. 24, 1902, while still at work on the final volumes of the history of the Protectorate.

Further Reading

The best biographical work on Gardiner is Henry Barrett Learned, Samuel Rawson Gardiner (1902). Although out of date, it does provide an interesting account of his life and writings. Roland G. Usher, A Critical Study of the Historical Method of Samuel Rawson Gardiner (1915), is a more specialized study of Gardiner as a historian. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Samuel Rawson Gardiner." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . 11 Dec. 2018 <>.

"Samuel Rawson Gardiner." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . (December 11, 2018).

"Samuel Rawson Gardiner." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved December 11, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.