Thomas White (scholar)

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Thomas White, 1713 engraving by George Vertue. Thomas White (alias Blacklo).jpg
Thomas White, 1713 engraving by George Vertue.

Thomas White (1593–1676) was an English Roman Catholic priest and scholar, known as a theologian, censured by the Inquisition, [1] and also as a philosopher contributing to scientific and political debates.



He was the son of Richard White of Hutton, Essex and Mary, daughter of Edmund Plowden. [2] He was educated at St Omer College and Douai College; and subsequently at Valladolid. He taught at Douai, and was president of the English College, Lisbon. Ultimately he settled in London. [3] [4]

His role in English Catholic life was caricatured by the hostile Jesuit Robert Pugh in terms of the "Blackloist Cabal", a group supposed to include also Kenelm Digby, Peter Fitton, Henry Holden, and John Sergeant. In fact the Old Chapter was controlled by a Blackloist faction, in the period 1655 to 1660. [5]


He wrote around 40 theological works, around which the "Blackloist controversy" arose, taking its name from his alias Blackloe (Blacklow, Blacloe).

The first philosophical work of Thomas Hobbes, which remained unpublished until 1973, was on the De mundo dialogi tres of White, written in 1642. [6] The Institutionum peripateticarum (1646, English translation Peripatetical Institutions, 1656) represented itself as an exposition of the 'peripatetic philosophy' of Kenelm Digby. It was a scientific work, showing acceptance of the motion of the Earth and ideas of Galileo, but disagreeing with him on the cause of the tides. [7] [8]

In 1654 he produced an edition of the Dialogues of the controversialist William Rushworth (Richworth). The Grounds of Obedience and Government (1655) was written during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. Its implicit message, the Blackloist line for Catholics, was submission to the de facto ruler. The political aim was to secure an accommodation, and religious tolerance for Catholicism, and this was particularly controversial since the achievement of the objective might be at the cost of the access of Jesuits to England. [9] He replied to Joseph Glanvill's The Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661), an attack on Aristotelians, with Scire, sive sceptices (1663). [10]

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  1. Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Thomas White"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. Southgate, Beverley. "White, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29274.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  4. "Convento dos Inglesinhos" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  5. Article Thomas White in Dictionary of Seventeenth Century British Philosophers (2000), editor Andrew Pyle.
  6. Richard Henry Popkin, The Third Force in Seventeenth-century Thought (1992), p. 11.
  7. John L. Russell, Copernican System in Great Britain, p. 223 in Jerzy Dobrzycki, The Reception of Copernicus' Heliocentric Theory (1973).
  8. Edward Grant, Planets, Stars, and Orbs: The Medieval Cosmos, 1200–1687 (1996), p. 671.
  9. M. A. Stewart, English Philosophy in the Age of Locke (2000), p. 148.
  10. W. R. Sorley, A History of English Philosophy (2007 edition), p. 101.

Further reading