The Text

The editorial team will use Hume’s final version of the History, published after his death in 1778, as copy text. We will digitize a copy of this edition, taking into account variants between copies of the edition. We will also digitize the other lifetime single volumes and complete set editions of the History, as a necessary step towards providing a full account of all the changes made by Hume between the first volume of The History of Great Britain (1754) and the posthumous edition of 1778. There is a manuscript for most of the “ancient” (i.e. “pre-Tudor” history) held by the National Library of Scotland and we will indicate where the printed text diverges from it.


In accord with common eighteenth-century practice, Hume’s footnotes are sparse and often uninformative to the modern reader. Building on preliminary work already done on Hume’s sources by Mark G. Spencer and Roger L. Emerson (Hume Studies, 2014), we are annotating Hume’s footnotes, indicating the likely text and edition referred to, and where possible identifying page numbers for the relevant passages. In addition, there is substantial evidence of unacknowledged use by Hume of passages from other historians. The EEBO and ECCO databases will be used by Mikko Tolonen’s research group as the basis for identification of this kind of text re-use, and the results of the investigation will also be indicated in our footnotes. We emphasise, however, that we intend to keep editorial annotation of the text to a minimum.


In a self-standing first volume we will provide the first full account of what is known about the genesis of The History of England, Hume’s methods of research and writing process, and the printing and publication history of each separate volume and complete edition. The history of this text is complex and a careful analysis is necessary of its development and alterations. We will also give a brief account of the publication history from 1778 to the present day. We will reproduce Hume’s index, and also compile supplementary indexes to the introductory volume and to all proper names in Hume’s text.