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Sharon Turner by Sir Martin Archer Shee

Sharon Turner (September 24, 1768 - February 13, 1847) was an English historian.[1]


Born in Pentonville, Turner was the eldest son of William and Ann Turner, Yorkshire natives who had settled in London upon marrying. He left school at fifteen to be articled to an attorney in the Temple. On January 18, 1795 he married Mary Watts (bap. 1768, died 1843), with whom he had at least six children. Among these were Sydney, inspector of reformatory schools, and Mary, married to the economist William Ellis.[1]

Turner became a solicitor but left the profession after he became interested in the study of Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon literature. He settled himself in Red Lion Square near the British Museum, staying there for sixteen years. He advised his friend Isaac D'Israeli to baptize his children (Benjamin included) in order to give them a better chance in life.


Utilizing his access to rare materials, he was the first serious scholar to examine the migrations of the Anglo-Saxon peoples. The results of his researches were published in his History of the Anglo-Saxons (1799-1805), appearing in several subsequent editions. Thereafter he continued the narrative in History of England (1814-29), concluding with the end of the reign of Elizabeth I. Against the emergence of the French Consulate, he promoted the notion of Anglo-Saxon liberty as opposed to Norman tyranny (strong since the 17th century).

These histories, especially the former, though somewhat marred by an attempt to emulate the grandiose style of Gibbon, were works of real research opening up and to a considerable extent developing a new field of inquiry in the area of Anglo-Saxon history. For example, Herodotus reported the Persians called the Scythians “Sakai,” and Sharon Turner identified these very people as the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons. In carefully determining their origins in the Caucusus, Turner wrote: “The migrating Scythians crossed the Araxes, passed out of Asia, and suddenly appeared in Europe in the sixth century B.C… The names Saxon, Scythian and Goth are used interchangeably.”

Turner also authored a Sacred History of the World, a translation of Beowulf and a poem on Richard III. Turner's place as a historian has been debated by later generations of academics.


  1. ^ a b This article incorporates public domain text from : Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J. M. Dent & Sons; New York, E. P. Dutton.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SHARON TURNER (1768-1847), English historian, was born in Pentonville, London, on the 24th of September 1768. His parents came from Yorkshire. He was educated at a private school kept by Dr Davis in Pentonville, and was articled to a solicitor in the Temple in 1783, and when his master died in 1789 he continued the business. He remained in business at first in the Temple, and later in Red Lion Square till 1829, when failing health compelled him to retire. He settled for a time at Winchmore Hill, but afterwards returned to London, and died in his son's house on the 13th of February 1847. In early boyhood he had been attracted by a translation of the "Death Song of Ragnar Lodbrok," and was led by this boyish interest to make a study of early English history in Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic sources. He devoted all the time he could spare from his business to the study of Anglo-Saxon documents in the British Museum. The material was abundant and had hitherto been neglected. When the first volume of his History of England from the earliest times to the Norman Conquest appeared in 1799, it was at once recognized as a work of equal novelty and value. The fourth volume appeared in 1805. He also published a continuation (History of England during the Middle Ages), a Modern History of England, a Sacred History of the World, and a volume on Richard III. (1845), and he was the author of pamphlets on the copyright laws (1813).

His son, Sydney Turner (1814-1879), educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, took orders, was known as a strong partisan of reformatory schools, and died rector of Hempstead in Gloucestershire.

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