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Henry Thomas Buckle

Henry Thomas Buckle

English historian

Henry Thomas Buckle (24 November 1821 – 29 May 1862) was an English historian, the author of an unfinished History of Civilization, and a strong amateur chess player. He is sometimes called "the Father of Scientific History".

Early life and education

Buckle, the son of Thomas Henry Buckle (1779–1840), a wealthy London merchant and shipowner, and his wife, Jane Middleton (d. 1859) of Yorkshire was born at Lee in London (Kent County) on 24 November 1821. He had two sisters. His father died in January 1840.


As a boy, Buckle's "delicate health" rendered him unsuited for the usual formal education or games of middle-class youth. However, he loved reading. This made him suitable to be "educated at home by his mother, to whom he was devoted until her death in 1859. She taught him to read the Bible, the Arabian Nights, The Pilgrim's Progress, and Shakespeare. His father read theology and literature and occasionally recited Shakespeare to the family in the evenings."

Buckle's one year of formal education was in Gordon House School at age fourteen. When his father offered him a reward for winning a prize in mathematics, Buckle asked "to be taken away from school". From then on he was self-taught. As such, Buckle said later, "I was never much tormented with what is called education, but allowed to pursue my own way undisturbed.... Whatever I may now be supposed to know I taught myself."

At age nineteen, Buckle first gained distinction as a chess player. He was known as one of the best in the world. In matchplay he defeated Kieseritsky and Loewenthal.

Father's death

Buckle's father died in 1840. Buckle inherited £20,000. This inheritance allowed Buckle to live the rest of his life in reading, writing, and travel.


November 24, 1821
Henry Thomas Buckle was born in Lewisham.


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