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Robert Brady (writer)

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Robert Brady by Daniel de Koninck

Robert Brady MD (1627–1700) was an English academic and historical writer supporting the royalist position in the reigns of Charles II of England and James II of England. He was also a physician.


Brady was son of Thomas Brady, an attorney of Denver, Norfolk. He was educated in Downham Market and at Caius College, Cambridge.[1] He was made Master of Caius College in 1660, on the English Restoration. In the 1670s, he hoped to write for the prominent politicians Joseph Williamson and Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, but they declined the offer. It was only when William Sancroft became Archbishop of Canterbury that Brady found a patron.[2]

Beginning in 1677, Brady held the position of Regius Professor of Physic at Cambridge. He sat as Member of Parliament for the University in 1681 and 1685.[3]

In historical controversy, he was opposed to William Petyt and James Tyrrell, along what would become Tory versus Whig lines, then forming in the Exclusion crisis of the 1680s. Brady is regarded as holding to an uncompromising royalist position.[4] Others on the Whig side were William Atwood, Edward Cooke, and Sir John Somers.

J. P. Kenyon takes him as a pioneer among the royalist scholars of English medieval history, who were working towards a formulation akin to Kenyon's viewpoint.[5] John Pocock[6] regards as "unforgettably damaging" the effect the (proto-)Tory Brady and others made, in attacking the doctrine of the "Ancient Constitution" as a failed description of the real circumstances of political arrangements in the England of the Middle Ages. On the narrow point of the actual legal effects of the Norman Conquest, Brady had been anticipated by Samuel Daniel, in views that are quite close to some modern scholars.[7] He moved from there to argue for absolutism,[8] and that Magna Carta was not a major charter for popular freedom.[9] Brady's ideas drew on Henry Spelman and Robert Filmer.[2]

David C. Douglas remarks that although his motivations as a scholar were at least as political as those of his opponents, his techniques were so far superior that his work remained of importance.[10] Brady was aided in his later work by a position from 1686 in the archives of the Tower of London.[2][11]

Offices held[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Regius Professor of Physic
Succeeded by
Preceded by Master of Gonville and Caius College
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Cambridge University
With: Sir Thomas Exton 1679–1689
Succeeded by


  • A Full and Clear Answer to a Book Written by William Petit, Esq. (1681)
  • An Introduction to the Old English History (1684)
  • A Complete History of England (1685)
  • An Historical Treatise of Cities and Burghs (1690)


  1. ^ "Brady, Robert (BRDY643R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ a b c Andrew Pyle (editor), Dictionary of Seventeenth Century British Philosophers (2000), article pp. 117–8.
  3. ^ Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  4. ^ Colin Kidd (13 March 1999). British Identities Before Nationalism: Ethnicity and Nationhood in the Atlantic World, 1600–1800. Cambridge University Press. pp. 79–. ISBN 978-0-521-62403-9. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  5. ^ J. P. Kenyon (27 July 1990). Revolution Principles: The Politics of Party, 1689–1720. Cambridge University Press. pp. 36–. ISBN 978-0-521-38656-2. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  6. ^ John Greville Agard Pocock (27 January 2003). The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. Princeton University Press. p. 444. ISBN 978-0-691-11472-9. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  7. ^ Patrick Wormald, The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century (2001), p. 8 ISBN 0631227407.
  8. ^ J. H. Burns (17 November 1994). The Cambridge History of Political Thought, 1450–1700. Cambridge University Press. pp. 364–. ISBN 978-0-521-47772-7. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  9. ^ "CHAPTER II: The Colonial Perspective: Ancient and Medieval – Trevor Colbourn, The Lamp of Experience [1965]". Online Library of Liberty. Liberty Fund, Inc. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  10. ^ David C. Douglas, English Scholars (1939), p. 155.
  11. ^ David Bates (1994). England and Normandy in the Middle Ages. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-1-85285-083-8. Retrieved 5 May 2012.