Educated in his native city, he entered the Public Record Office in London in 1846, becoming assistant keeper of the public records (1859-1893). Gairdner's valuable and painstaking contributions to English history relate chiefly to the reigns of Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII. For the "Rolls Series" he edited Letters and Papers illustrative of the Reigns of Richard III and Henry VII (London, 1861-1863), and Memorials of Henry VII (London, 1858); and he succeeded JS Brewer in editing the Letters and Papers, foreign and domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII (London, 1862-1905).
He brought out the best edition of the Paston Letters (London, 1872-1875, and again 1896), for which he wrote a valuable introduction; and for the Camden Society he edited the Historical collections of a Citizen of London (London, 1876), and Three 15th-century Chronicles (London, 1880). His other works include excellent monographs on Richard III (London, 1878), and on Henry VII (London, 1889, and subsequently); The Houses of Lancaster and York (London, 1874, and other editions); The English Church in the 16th century (London, 1902); Lollardy and the Reformation in England (1908); and contributions to the Encyclopędia Britannica, the Dictionary of National Biography, the Cambridge Modern History, and the English Historical Review. Gairdner received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the university of Edinburgh in 1897, and was made a C.B. in 1900.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.