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Sir Archibald Alison

Sir Archibald Alison, 1st Baronet (29 December 1792 – 23 May 1867) was a British lawyer, who held several prominent legal appointments, historian and baronet. He was the younger son of the Scottish cleric and author Archibald Alison.



Born at Kenley, Shropshire, he was the son of Archibald Alison, a Church of England cleric and his wife Dorothea Gregory, granddaughter of James Forbes, 17th Lord Forbes.[1] After studying under a private tutor, and at the University of Edinburgh, he was, in 1814, called to the Bar, at which he ultimately attained some distinction, becoming in 1834 Sheriff of Lanarkshire. In 1853, he received a Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law by the University of Oxford.[1]


When travelling in France in 1814 he conceived the idea of his Modern History of Europe from the French Revolution to the Fall of Napoleon, which deals with the period from the outbreak of the French Revolution to the restoration of the Bourbons, and extends, in its original form (1833–42), to 10 volumes. The work is one of vast industry, but is extremely diffuse and one-sided, and often prosy.

Disraeli satirises the author in Coningsby as Mr. Wordy, who wrote a history to prove that Providence was on the side of the Tories. It had, however, an enormous sale. A continuation of it (1852–59) brought the story down to the Accession of Louis Napoleon. The work was popular was translated into many languages, including Arabic and Hindostee. Alison was also the author of a life of Marlborough, and of two standard works on the criminal law of Scotland.


He was elected Lord Rector successively of Marischal College, Aberdeen, and of the University of Glasgow. In 1852 he was created a baronet, during Lord Derby's administration.

Family and death

In 1825, he married Elizabeth Glencairn, the daughter of Patrick Tytler; the children from the marriage were Archibald, Frederick and Eliza Frances Catherine. Both sons became distinguished British officers. He died near Glasgow, Scotland at the age of 74 and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his elder son, Sir Archibald Alison, 2nd Baronet. The 1st Baronet's autobiography was published in 1883; his portrait was painted by Robert Scott Lauder.


  • Modern History of Europe from the French Revolution to the Fall of Napoleon
  • Life of Marlborough


  1. ^ a b Dod, Robert P. (1860). The Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage of Great Britain and Ireland. London: Whitaker and Co.. pp. 88. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Campbell, 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane
Rector of Marischal College, Aberdeen
1845 – ?
Succeeded by
Patrick Robertson, Lord Robertson
Preceded by
Thomas Babington Macaulay
Rector of the University of Glasgow
1850 – 1852
Succeeded by
Earl of Eglinton
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Possil House)
1852 – 1867
Succeeded by
Archibald Alison


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