Robertson, William, 1721–93, Scottish churchman and historian. As moderator (1762–80) of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, he led the moderate party and enforced the right of the state to make clerical appointments. Robertson was one of the first to approach history as an empirical science. His History of Scotland during the Reigns of Queen Mary and King James VI (1759), a factual, pragmatic history, was praised by Edmund Burke, David Hume, and others. Soon after its success, he became principal of the Univ. of Edinburgh (1762) and historiographer royal (1764). His masterpiece was The History of the Reign of Charles V (3 vol., 1796; ed. by W. H. Prescott, 2 vol., 1857), though it has long been dated. His History of the Discovery and Settlement of America (1777) was the first sympathetic treatment in English of the Spanish in America.
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