English historian; b. Winchester, Feb. 5, 1771; d. Hornby, Lancashire, July 17, 1851. Lingard received a Catholic education at the English College in douai, France, which he left shortly before the final expulsion of the English community during the French Revolution (1793). In England he rejoined a group of Douai professors and students in Durham County, where they dwelt at Tudhoe and then at Crook Hall (1794). After his ordination (1795), Lingard became vice-president, professor of moral and natural philosophy, and prefect of studies at Crook Hall and from 1808, at Ushaw College, site of the permanent establishment. From May of 1810 until June of 1811, he was acting president of Ushaw College. For the remainder of his life he was a zealous pastor in charge of the mission in Hornby.
Lingard, who came of old English stock, was very proud of English Catholic traditions and wished to retain them. Forthright and intensely English, he was, in his correspondence, critical, at times very critical, of bishops, of Rome, of Italian missionaries to England, and of the pious practices that they introduced. He was distressed because English Catholics remained subject to the penal laws and lacked a clergy with a tradition of learning and culture. The popular concept of the Catholic Church in England as an Italian mission to Irish immigrants disturbed him. In his many writings, his chief aims were to restore the good name of English Catholics and to effect the conversion of that country.
At Crook Hall, Lingard composed his History and Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church (2 v. 1806), a valuable work that is still cited frequently by specialists. At Hornby he engaged in controversy with leading Anglican divines and published a version of the New Testament with a critical introduction (1836) and several devotional books. But his fame rests principally on his eight-volume History of England, from the First Invasion by the Romans to the Accession of William and Mary in 1688 (1819–30; the 5th ed., enlarged, 1849–51, was the last one revised by the author; the much later edition by Hilaire belloc added nothing of value). The work was a general history intended to attract non-Catholic readers by its impartiality and accuracy. His method was, as he described it, "to take nothing on trust; to confine my researches in the first instance to original documents and the more ancient writers; and only to consult the modern historians when I have composed my own narrative." Original documents were, however, difficult of access at that time, when scientific history was in its infancy. To obtain them Lingard went to Italy in 1817 and visited Venice, Milan, Florence, and Parma. In Rome he worked for several weeks in the Barberini and Vatican archives; he found there a useful collaborator in Robert Gradwell, rector of the English College, who supplied him with materials for the next ten years. Publication of the first few volumes of the History of England established Lingard's reputation as an original and critical historian. Thereafter materials and offers of help came from all parts of Europe. Alexander Cameron and Thomas Sherburne, rectors at the English College in Valladolid, did research for Lingard in the archives of Simancas. The archbishop of Paris aided him in discovering the important dispatches of Simon Renard, Spanish ambassador during the reign of Mary Tudor.
The extensive use of original sources brought the work a success that was immediate and enduring. Lingard was one of the first to utilize diplomatic materials for sixteenth-and seventeenth-century English history. Thereby he was able to present this controversial period in an entirely new light. The History was translated into French, German, and Italian and earned its author a European reputation. It was rumored that leo xii created Lingard a cardinal in petto but died before actually conferring the red hat. Today the work is almost in its entirety out of date, particularly for the pre-Reformation period. The treatment of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is the best section; the chapters on Queen mary tudor still constitute one of the better studies of this reign.
Lingard's voluminous correspondence, as yet unedited, constitutes an important source for English Catholic history.
Bibliography: m. haile and e. bonney, Life and Letters of John Lingard (London 1911). e. bonney, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 16 v. (New York 1907–14) 9:270–272, with photo. j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time, 5 v. (London-New York 1885–1902) 4:254–278. t. cooper, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 1885–1900) 33:320–323. g. culkin, "The Making of L.'s History," Month 192 (1951): 7–18. d. milburn, A History of Ushaw College (Durham 1964).