An Autobiography

This volume presents a many-faceted view of the Oxford philosopher R. G. Collingwood. At its centre is his Autobiography, published in 1939, which has the status of a cult classic for its compelling ‘story of his thought’. Collingwood’s work has enjoyed renewed attention in recent years, with new editions of his great philosophical works.

This volume republishes the Autobiography alongside a previously unpublished account by Collingwood of a journey to the East Indies in 1938-1939. These writings are accompanied by eleven specially written essays. Several of these examine aspects of Collingwood’s life—not just the Autobiography, but what he doesn’t discuss in that work, from his childhood to his professorship at Oxford. And the essays also examine aspects of his work on philosophy, politics, history, and archaeology, in the context of his life.


“A polymath as skilled in archaeology as he was in philosophy, a staunch opponent of appeasement and an early hater of the Daily Mail. Collingwood has been my guide for many years.” Niall Ferguson, Civilization

“If these scholars have anything methodologically in common, it might be summarised as a desire to stress the historicity of the history of political theory and of intellectual history more generally. Collingwood himself expressed this commitment by demanding that we should aim to recover the precise questions to which the philosophical texts we study were designed as answers.” Quentin Skinner, The History of Political Thought in National Context

“Collingwood’s remark helps us to look for the answers different writers give to their (not our) questions. To this end we must try to think ourselves into each writer’s scheme of thought.” John Rawls, Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy

“Before I read this book there was chaos in my thoughts regarding my subject matter: having finished it, I knew perfectly well what I was going to argue for. My deepest gratitude is due to this unjustly neglected author.” Agnes Heller, A theory of History, Viii

“The new edition includes a facsimile of the first printing […] followed by various maps and illustrations, and a mass of supplementary essays.” Jonathan Rée, London Review of Books

“[G]uaranteed to get the reader on his or her toes … this volume is invaluable for Collingwoodian scholarship” Collingwood and British Idealism Studies