Robertson, William Spence (1872-1955) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Robertson, William Spence (1872-1955)

Historical Note:

William Spence Robertson (1872-1955) was assistant professor (1909-18); associate professor (1918-20); professor (1920-41); head of the Department of History (1937-41); and professor emeritus (1941-55) at the University of Illinois (UI). He was a renowned early-twentieth-century historian of Latin American history, perhaps best known for his contributions to the scholarship of the Spanish-American Wars of Independence.

Robertson was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on October 7, 1872. He and his family immigrated to the United States in 1880, settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and he became a naturalized US citizen. After finishing high school, he worked as a rural schoolhouse teacher before earning his bachelor's degree (1899) and his master's degree (1900) at the University of Wisconsin. He went on to earn his PhD (1903) at Yale University, and his dissertation, "Francisco de Miranda and the Revolutionizing of Spanish America," was awarded the Herbert Adams Baxter Prize by the American Historical Association in 1907. After completing his formal education, Robertson taught at Western Reserve (1903-09) and the University of Indiana (1909) before joining the faculty at the UI in 1909, where he remained. He pursued his scholarly interest in Latin American history throughout his career, publishing a number of works that include Rise of the Spanish-American Republics As Told in the Lives of Their Liberators (1918), History of the Latin-American Nations (1923), France and Latin-American Independence (1939), Iturbide of Mexico (1952), and A History of Argentina (written by Ricardo Levene; edited and translated by Robertson, 1937). Robertson was one of the founders of the Hispanic American Historical Review in 1916. And, in 1922, his early interest in Francisco de Miranda (1750-1816) led him to rediscover Miranda's papers at the country seat of Lord Bathhurst (1762-1834) in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England, after they had been missing since 1814. His biography The Life of Miranda followed in 1929. In recognition of his scholarship, he was awarded the Order of Liberators of Venezuela and the Mitre medal by the Hispanic Society of America. He was an member of many historical societies, including an honorary member of the National Academy of History in Venezuela and the (Argentinian) National Academy Junta de Historia y Numismatica de America.

Robertson married Gertrude Mueller in 1913, and together they had two children. He died in Urbana, Illinois, on October 24, 1955.


Clifford Barrett, "Professor Robertson Writes Fine Biography of Miranda," Daily Illini, 9 March 1930, accessed June 4, 2020,

"William Spence Robertson," The Hispanic American Historical Review 36, no. 2 (May 1956), pp. 263â??267. Accessed June 4, 2020,

Wikipedia, s.v. "William Spence Robinson," accessed June 4, 2020,

Page Generated in: 0.168 seconds (using 46 queries).
Using 5.9MB of memory. (Peak of 6.07MB.)

Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-3
Copyright ©2017 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign