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Robin George Collingwood
Born 22 February 1889 (1889-02-22)
Cartmel, Lancashire
Died 9 January 1943 (aged 53)
Coniston, Lancashire
Occupation Philosopher and historian

Robin George Collingwood (22 February 1889 – 9 January 1943) was a British philosopher and historian. He was born at Cartmel Fell in Lancashire, the son of the academic W. G. Collingwood, and was educated at Rugby School and at University College, Oxford, where he read Greats. He graduated with congratulatory first class honours and, prior to his graduation, was elected a fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.



Collingwood was a fellow of Pembroke, 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.[citation needed] Important influences on Collingwood were the Italian Idealists Croce, Gentile and Guido de Ruggiero, the last of whom was also a close friend. Other important influences were Hegel, Kant, Vico, F. H. Bradley and J. A. Smith. His father W. G. Collingwood, professor of fine arts at Reading University, was a student of Ruskin and was also an important influence.

Collingwood is most famous for his book The Idea of History, a work collated from various sources soon after his death by his pupil, T. M. Knox. The book came to be a major inspiration for philosophy of history in the English-speaking world. It is extensively cited, leading one commentator to ironically remark that Collingwood is coming to be "the best known neglected thinker of our time".[1] Not just a philosopher of history, Collingwood was also a practicing historian and archaeologist, being during his time a leading authority on Roman Britain.

Collingwood held history as "recollection" of the "thinking" of a historical personage. Collingwood considered whether two different people can have the same thought and not just the same content, concluding that "there is no tenable theory of personal identity" preventing such a doctrine.

In The Principles of Art Collingwood held (following Croce) that works of art are essentially expressions of emotion. He portrayed art as a necessary function of the human mind, and considered it collaborative activity. In politics Collingwood defended the ideals of what he called liberalism "in its Continental sense":

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.[2]

He also published The First Mate's Log (1940), an account of a yachting voyage in the Mediterranean, in the company of several of his students.

Arthur Ransome was a family friend, and learned to sail in their boat, subsequently teaching his sibling's children to sail. Ransome loosely based the Swallows in Swallows and Amazons on his sibling's children. Ransome also proposed to two of his three sisters.

After several years of increasingly debilitating strokes Collingwood died at Coniston, Lancashire in January 1943.

Main works published in his lifetime

  • Religion and Philosophy (1916) ISBN 1-85506-317-4
  • Roman Britain (1923, ed. 2, 1932) ISBN 0-8196-1160-3
  • Speculum Mentis; or The Map of Knowledge (1924)
  • Outlines of a Philosophy of Art (1925)
  • The Archaeology of Roman Britain (1930)
  • An Essay on Philosophic Method (1933, rev. ed. 2005). ISBN 1-85506-392-1
  • Roman Britain and the English Settlements (with J. N. L. Myres, 1936, second edition 1937)
  • The Principles of Art (1938) ISBN 0-19-500209-1
  • An Autobiography (1939) ISBN 0-19-824694-3
  • The First Mate's Log (1940)
  • An Essay on Metaphysics (1940, revised edition 1998). ISBN 0-8191-3315-9
  • The New Leviathan (1942, rev. ed. 1992) ISBN 0-19-823880-0

Posthumously-published works

  • The Idea of Nature (1945) ISBN 0-19-500217-2
  • The Idea of History (1946, revised edition 1993). ISBN 0-19-285306-6
  • Essays in the Philosophy of Art (1964)
  • Essays in the Philosophy of History (1965) ISBN 0-8240-6355-4
  • Essays in Political Philosophy (1989) ISBN 0-19-823566-6
  • The Principles of History and Other Writings in Philosophy of History (2001) ISBN 0-19-924315-8
  • The Philosophy of Enchantment: Studies in Folktale, Cultural Criticism, and Anthropology (2005) ISBN 0-19-926253-5

All 'revised' editions comprise the original text plus a new introduction and extensive additional material.


  1. ^ Mink, Louis O. (1969). Mind, History, and Dialectic. Indiana University Press, 1.
  2. ^ R. G. Collingwood (2005). "Man Goes Mad" in The Philosophy of Enchantment. Oxford University Press, 318.

External links



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