Pearson, Charles Henry
PEARSON, CHARLES HENRY (1830-1894), British historian and colonial statesman, was born in London on the 7th of September 1830. After receiving his early education at Rugby and King's College, London, he went up to Oxford, where he was generally regarded as the most brilliant of an exceptionally able set, and in 1854 obtained a fellowship at Oriel College. His constitutional weakness and bad eyesight forced him to abandon medicine, which he had adopted as a career, and in 1855 he returned to King's College as lecturer in English language and literature, a post which he almost immediately quitted for the professorship of modern history. He made numerous journeys abroad, the most important being his visit to Russia in 1858, his account of which was published anonymously in 1859 under the title of Russia, by a Recent Traveller; an adventurous journey through Poland during the insurrection of 1863, of which he gave a sympathetic and much praised account in the Spectator; and a visit to the United States in 1868, where he gathered materials for his subsequent discussion of the negro problem in his National Life and Character. In the meantime, besides contributing regularly, first to the Saturday Review and then to the Spectator, and editing the National Review, he wrote the first volume of The Early and Middle Ages of England (1861). The work was bitterly attacked by Freeman, whose " extravagant Saxonism " Pearson had been unable to adopt. It appeared in 1868 in a revised form with the title of History of England during the Early and Middle Ages, accompanied by a second volume which met with general recognition. Still better was the reception of his admirable Maps of England in the First Thirteen Centuries (1870). But as the result of these labours he was threatened with total blindness; and, disappointed of receiving a professorship at Oxford, in 1871 he emigrated to Australia. Here he married and settled down to the life of a sheep-farmer; but finding his health and eyesight greatly improved, he came to Melbourne as lecturer on history at the university. Soon afterwards he became head master of the Presbyterian Ladies' College, and in this position practically organized the whole system of higher education for women in Victoria. On his election in 1878 to the Legislative Assembly he definitely adopted politics as his career. His views on the land question and secular education aroused the bitter hostility of the rich squatters and the clergy; but his singular nobility of character, no less than his powers of mind, made him one of the most influential men in the Assembly. He was minister without portfolio in the Berry cabinet (1880-1881), and as minister of education in the coalition government of 1886 to 1890 he was able to pass into law many of the recommendations of his report. His reforms entirely remodelled state education in Victoria. In 1892 a fresh attack of illness decided him to return to England. Here he published in 1893 the best known of his works, National Life and Character. It is an attempt to show that the white man can flourish only in the temperate zones, that the yellow and black races must increase out of all proportion to the white, and must in time crush out his civilization. He died in London on the 29th of May 1894.
A volume of his Reviews and Critical Essays was published in 1896, and was followed in 1900 by his autobiography, a work of great interest.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)