Definitions

clergyman

William Harrison (clergyman)

William Harrison (April 18, 1534 - 1593) was an English clergyman, one of the co-authors of Holinshed's Chronicle. His contribution to Holinshed's work of 1577 drew heavily on the earlier work of John Leland.

Biography

Early Life and Education

William Harrison was born in London, in the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle to John and Anne Harrison. As an adolescent, Harrison attended St Paul's School and the Westminster School of Alexander Nowell. Raised in Protestant circles, Harrison continued his education at Christ Church College at Oxford. During the reign of Mary I, Christ Church became a center of Catholic sentiment, and Harrison converted to Catholicism. Harrison claimed that he returned to Protestant belief before Mary's death in 1558 after hearing the words of Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, three Protestant martyrs burned at the stake in Oxford.

Adulthood

Following his graduation, Harrison became the rector of Radwinter in Essex, through the patronage of Lord Cobham. Harrison also held positions at two London parishes, which he probably visited irregularly and staffed with a curate. Harrison married Marion Isebrand, the daughter of Flemish immigrants. Continuing his theological studies at Cambridge, Harrison took the degree of Bachelor of Divinity in 1571. Near the end of his life, Harrison received a prestigious appointment as a canon at St. George's Chapel at Windsor. Harrison was buried at Windsor following his death in 1593

Works

Harrison has principally been known for his Description of England, first published in 1577 as part of Holinshed's Chronicle. This work enumerated England's geographic, economic, social, religious and political features and represents an important source for historians interested in life in Elizabethan England. His contribution to Holinshed's work drew heavily on the earlier work of John Leland.

Harrison also wrote a number of unpublished manuscripts, including The Great English Chronologie. This work traced fortunes of the Christian church in history, stretching from creation to Harrison's death in 1593. In the Chronologie, Harrison revealed his sympathy with the Calvinist perspective of those seeking to reform the Church of England. At the same time, Harrison also indicated his distrust of the political intentions of England's Puritans and his ultimate loyalty to England's ecclesiastical authorities.

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