Robin George Collingwood, FBA (/ˈkɒlɪŋˌwʊd/; 22 February 1889
– 9 January 1943), was an English philosopher, historian and
archaeologist. He is best known for his philosophical works including
The Principles of
1 Biography 2 Philosopher
2.1 Philosophy of history 2.2 Philosophy of art 2.3 Political philosophy
3 Archaeologist 4 Author 5 Works
5.1 Main works published in his lifetime 5.2 Main articles published in his lifetime 5.3 Published posthumously
6 Notes 7 Sources 8 External links
Collingwood was born in Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands, in Lancashire, the
son of the artist and archaeologist W. G. Collingwood, who had acted
as John Ruskin's private secretary in the final years of Ruskin's
life. Collingwood's mother was also an artist and a talented pianist.
He was educated at Rugby School, and at University College, Oxford,
where he gained a First in Classical Moderations (Greek and Latin) in
1910 and a congratulatory First in
Greats (Ancient History and
Philosophy) in 1912. Prior to graduation he was elected a fellow of
Pembroke College, Oxford.
Collingwood was a fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, for some 15
years until becoming the Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical
Philosophy at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was the only pupil of F. J.
Haverfield to survive World War I. Important influences on
Collingwood were the Italian Idealists Benedetto Croce, Giovanni
Gentile and Guido de Ruggiero, the last of whom was also a close
friend. Other important influences were Hegel, Kant, Giambattista
F. H. Bradley and J. A. Smith.
After several years of increasingly debilitating strokes Collingwood
died at Coniston, Lancashire, in 1943. He was a practising Anglican
throughout his life.
Philosophy of history
Collingwood is widely noted for The
The essence of this conception is... the idea of a community as governing itself by fostering the free expression of all political opinions that take shape within it, and finding some means of reducing this multiplicity of opinions to a unity.
Collingwood was not just a philosopher of history but also a
practising historian and archaeologist. He was, during his time, a
leading authority on Roman Britain: he spent his term time at Oxford
teaching philosophy but devoted his long vacations to archaeology.
He began work along Hadrian's Wall. The family home was at Coniston in
the Lake District and his father was a leading figure in the
Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological Society. Collingwood was
drawn in on a number of excavations and put forward the theory that
Hadrian’s Wall was not so much a fighting platform but an elevated
sentry walk. He also put forward the suggestion that Hadrian's
defensive system also included a number of forts along the Cumberland
He was very active in the 1930 Wall Pilgrimage for which he prepared
the ninth edition of Bruce's Handbook.
His final and most controversial excavation in Cumbria was that of a
circular ring ditch near Penrith known as King Arthur's Round Table
(henge) in 1937. It appeared to be a Neolithic henge monument, and
Collingwood’s excavations, failing to find conclusive evidence of
Neolithic activity, nevertheless found the base of two stone pillars,
a possible cremation trench and some post holes. Sadly, his subsequent
ill health prevented him undertaking a second season so the work was
handed over to the German prehistorian Gerhard Bersu, who queried some
of Collingwood’s findings. However, recently, Grace Simpson, the
daughter of the excavator F.G. Simpson, has queried Bersu's work and
largely rehabilitated Collingwood as an excavator.
He also began what was to be the major work of his archaeological
career, preparing a corpus of the Roman Inscriptions of Britain, which
involved travelling all over Britain to see the inscriptions and draw
them; he eventually prepared drawings of nearly 900 inscriptions. It
was finally published in 1965 by his student R.P. Wright.
He also published two major archaeological works. The first, somewhat
surprisingly for a philosopher was The Archaeology of Roman Britain, a
handbook in sixteen chapters covering first the archaeological sites
(fortresses, towns and temples and portable antiquities) inscriptions,
coins, pottery and brooches. Mortimer Wheeler in a review,
remarked that "it seemed at first a trifle off beat that he should
immerse himself in so much museum-like detail… but I felt sure that
this was incidental to his primary mission to organise his own
However, his most important work was his contribution to the first
volume of the Oxford History of England,
Religion and Philosophy (1916) ISBN 1-85506-317-4
Main articles published in his lifetime
'A Philosophy of Progress', The Realist, 1:1, April 1929, 64-77
All 'revised' editions comprise the original text plus a new introduction and extensive additional material. Notes
^ a b Collingwood himself used the term "historicism", a term that he
apparently coined, to describe his approach (for example, in his
lecture " Ruskin's Philosophy" lecture, delivered to the Ruskin
Centenary Conference Exhibition,
William M. Johnston, The Formative Years of
R. G. Collingwood
Wikimedia Commons has media related to R. G. Collingwood.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: R. G. Collingwood
Moran, Seán Farrell, "R.G. Collingwood," Encyclopedia of Historians
and Historical Writing, Vol. I.
Additional Articles and Documents by
R. G. Collingwood
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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 54826 LCCN: n79011165 ISNI: 0000 0001 0861 0872 GND: 118676636 SELIBR: 46660 SUDOC: 030441560 BNF: cb12185550d (data) NDL: 00436