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A native of Northamptonshire, he was educated at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he later became a Fellow. Some time after 1571, he left Oxford to become school master at Sandwich, Kent, where he died in 1610. In 1603, Knolles published his Generall Historie of the Turkes, of which several editions subsequently appeared, among them Sir Paul Rycaut's edition (1700); This book was the first chronicle of the military and political aspects of the Ottoman Empire to be written in English. Previous histories had been available only in Latin and were thus not widely circulated. Knolles also published a translation of Jean Bodin's Les Six livres de la République in 1606
His work had considerable merits of style and of arrangement. Samuel Johnson praised Knolles as the best of English historians, saying that in his history of the Turks [Knolles] has displayed all the excellencies that narration can admit. Johnson explained Knolles' limited reputation by pointing out that his history recounted enterprizes and revolutions, of which none desire to be informed.
- Johnson, Samuel (1751). The Rambler, Number 122. The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson. 14 Volumes. 1969. Eds. W J Bate & Albrecht B. Strauss. New Haven CT: Yale University Press. Vol. IV pp.290-291.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press (This article is reproduced here: ).
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