A work by Gibbon, vol. i of the first (quarto) edition published 1776, vols ii and iii 1781, and the last three vols 1788.
This, the most celebrated historical work in English literature, falls into three divisions, as defined by the author in the preface, according to a plan that expanded during composition: from the age of Trajan and the Antonines to the subversion of the western Empire; from the reign of Justinian in the East to the establishment of the second or German Empire of the West, under Charlemagne; from the revival of the western Empire to the taking of Constantinople by the Turks. It thus covers a period of about thirteen centuries, and comprehends such vast subjects as the establishment of Christianity, the movements and settlements of the Teutonic tribes, the conquests of the Muslims, and the Crusades. It traces in fact the connection of the ancient world with the modern.
Gibbon's great erudition, breadth of treatment, and powerful organization render this a lasting monument, of substantial accuracy as well as elegance. The work is enlivened by ironic wit, much of it aimed at the early Church and the credulity and barbarism that overwhelmed the noble Roman virtues he so much admired.
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Edward Gibbon (1737—1794) historian