Owen Chadwick

William Owen Chadwick OM KBE FBA FRSE (20 May 1916 – 17 July 2015) was a British Anglican priest, academic, rugby international[1], writer and prominent historian of Christianity. As a leading academic, Chadwick became Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History from 1958 to 1968 and Regius Professor of History from 1968 to 1983. From 1956 to 1983, Chadwick was elected and served as the Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge.

In his obituaries, Chadwick was described as "one of the great religious historians of our time" by The Independent,[2] and as "one of the most remarkable men of letters of the 20th century" by The Guardian.[3]

Owen Chadwick

Owen Chadwick
William Owen Chadwick

20 May 1916
Bromley, Kent, England, UK
Died17 July 2015 (aged 99)
Cambridge, England, UK
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge, St John's College, Cambridge

Early life and education

Owen Chadwick
SchoolTonbridge School
UniversityUniversity of Cambridge, Selwyn College, Cambridge, St John's College, Cambridge
Rugby union career
Position(s) Hooker
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
1936–1938 Cambridge University ()
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1936 British Isles XV ()

Chadwick was born in Bromley in 1916, the third of six children of John Chadwick, a barrister, and his wife Edith (née Horrocks). His father died in 1925. He was an elder brother of the Very Reverend Henry Chadwick, also a distinguished professor and historian of the early Church, and a younger brother of Sir John Chadwick KCMG, a diplomat whose senior posting was as British Ambassador to Romania.[4]

His eldest brother was sent to Eton College, but Chadwick was educated at Tonbridge School from 1929 to 1935. He was school captain and captain of the rugby team.[5] He then studied classics at St John's College, Cambridge. He received three Blues in rugby playing as hooker for Cambridge University in the annual Varsity Match against Oxford University in 1936, 1937 and 1938 (as captain).[6] In 1936, during his first year at Cambridge, he was selected to tour with a British Lions team in their third trip to Argentina.[7] Although no caps were awarded on this tour, Chadwick did play in the one match against the full Argentina side, playing in his favoured position of hooker in a 23–0 victory.[8] The British team won all ten of its matches. During the 1937/38 season, Chadwick played for invitational touring side, the Barbarians.[9]

Chadwick graduated with a First in History in 1938. Having been influenced by Martin Charlesworth and Martin Niemöller in 1938, he took a First in theology at Cambridge in 1939. He then attended Cuddesdon College (a theological college) and was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood of the Church of England in 1940 and 1941 respectively.

He served as a curate at St John's Church in Huddersfield for two years and was then chaplain of Wellington College in Berkshire until the end of the Second World War.[10]

He also played rugby during the war, for Blackheath, and for an England team that played against New Zealand.

Cambridge career

After the war, he was made chaplain and Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1947 and then Dean of Chapel. He became a university theology lecturer in 1949 and published his first book on the 5th-century monk John Cassian in 1950.

In 1958 he was named Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge University. He then became an honorary fellow at St John's College, Cambridge, in 1964. A few years later in 1968, he was elected to the position of Regius Professor of Modern History, an ancient chair which he held until 1982, and was President of the British Academy during the early 1980s. As vice-chancellor from 1969 to 1971, he guided Cambridge through turbulent times in the late 1960s, including the Garden House riot in 1970. He was also elected president of Cambridge University RFC in 1973.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he was suggested as a potential Archbishop of Canterbury, but is thought to have declined the offer of a bishop's mitre more than once. He chaired the Archbishops' Commission on Church and State (1966–1970), known as the Chadwick Commission, which recommended that Parliament should pass the regulation of the church to a General Synod rather than disestablishment.

He was Hensley Henson Lecturer in Theology at Oxford University in 1975-76, and Ford Lecturer in English History at Oxford in 1980-81. He retired as Regius Professor and Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge in 1983. He became Fellow of the British Academy in 1962, and was its President from 1981 to 1985. He was also a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery from 1978 to 1994, and was Chancellor of the University of East Anglia from 1984 to 1994.

His brother Henry was the first person in over four centuries to become head of house at colleges at both Oxford and Cambridge, serving first as Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford and Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and then as Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge.

He served as a member of the Historical Manuscripts Commission for a period prior to 1992.[11]

Selwyn College, Cambridge

He was elected Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge, in 1955, where he was close neighbour and friend of David Briggs, head of King's College School. Installed in 1956, he was the longest-serving Master of Selwyn by the time he retired after 27 years in 1983. During his time as master, Selwyn became a full college of the Cambridge University in 1958 (though it had been founded back in 1882), it ceased to require its students to be communicant members (Anglicans) of the Church of England. As master of Selwyn College, Chadwick undertook and completed several major building projects including the new Cripps Court (not to be confused with the similarly named Cripps at Queens' College, Cambridge). Selwyn College was not the first Oxbridge college to admit women students alongside men, but it adopted the practice relatively early on in 1976. Under Chadwick's Mastership of Selwyn College, the numbers of fellows and postgraduates were doubled, greatly increasing the research output of the college. He took a keen interest in sports at Selwyn College and was elected to membership of the infamous Hermes Club. He is fondly remembered by Selwyn College through a series of paintings and named-rooms as one of the greatest and longest serving masters ever.


Chadwick wrote about such issues as the formation of the papacy in the modern world; about Lord Acton; about the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century; about the Church of England in the United Kingdom elsewhere, and about the secularisation of European thought and culture. He participated in the debate about the role of Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust during World War II.

With his brother, Henry, Chadwick edited the Oxford History of the Christian Church (1981-2010), to which he contributed three of its twelve volumes: "The Popes and European Revolution" (1980), "A History of the Popes 1830–1914" (1998), and "The Early Reformation on the Continent" (2003). Chadwick was awarded the Wolfson History Prize in 1981.

Owen Chadwick was also General Editor of the Penguin (formerly Pelican) History of the Church, to which he contributed the third volume (The Reformation), the seventh (The Christian Church in the Cold War, 1992) and the last two chapters of the sixth ("A History of Christian Missions", second edition 1986). His brother Henry Chadwick wrote the first volume in the series (The Early Church, 1967).

Among Chadwick's other books are:[12]

  • John Cassian: A Study in Primitive Monasticism (1950)
  • The Founding of Cuddesdon (1954)
  • From Bossuet to Newman (1957)
  • The Sayings of the Fathers (1958)
  • Mackenzie’s Grave (1959) (on a bishop sent to the Zambesi in the 19th century)
  • Victorian Miniature (1960) (based on parallel diaries of the squire and parson at Ketteringham in Norfolk covering several decades of the early 19th century)
  • The Victorian Church (in two volumes, 1966 and 1970)
  • The Secularization of the European Mind in the 19th Century (1975) (based on his Gifford Lectures in 1973-74)
  • Newman (in the OUP's "Past Masters" series; 1983)
  • Hensley Henson: A study in the Friction between Church and State (1983)
  • A History of Christianity (1995)
  • The Early Reformation on the Continent (2001) [13]


Chadwick was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1982 New Year Honours.[14] As a priest he did not receive the accolade and so remained styled as "The Revd Owen Chadwick" rather than "Sir Owen Chadwick".[15] He was appointed to the Order of Merit (OM) on 11 November 1983.[16]

Personal life

He married his wife Ruth (née Hallward) in 1949; she died before him, in January 2015. He was survived by two sons and two daughters.[17] Chadwick died at the age of 99 on 17 July 2015.

After retiring, he lived with his wife in Newnham in Cambridge, but also spent time in Cley next the Sea in Norfolk where he was priest in charge.


  1. ^ Owen Chadwick rugby profile ESPN Scrum.com
  2. ^ Obituary, The Independent, 23 July 2015.
  3. ^ The Rev Owen Chadwick obituary, The Guardian, 19 July 2015 (updated 20 July 2015).
  4. ^ PHS (9 July 1969). "The Times Diary—Chadwick favourite for Dean, OAPs in TV licence rumpus, Holiday Inns here to stay". News. The Times (57607). London. col D, p. 10.
  5. ^ The Reverend Professor Owen Chadwick, OM - obituary, The Daily Telegraph, 20 July 1915
  6. ^ Marshall, Howard; Jordon, J.P. (1951). Oxford v Cambridge, The Story of the University Rugby Match. London: Clerke & Cockeran. p. 252.
  7. ^ Owen Chadwick rugby profile ESPN Scrum.com
  8. ^ "La Unión de Rugby del Río de la Plata". UAR.com. 1937. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  9. ^ Starmer-Smith, Nigel (1977). The Barbarians. Macdonald & Jane's Publishers. p. 219. ISBN 0-86007-552-4.
  10. ^ "Owen Chadwick RIP". sel.cam.ac.uk.
  11. ^ "No. 52987". The London Gazette. 10 July 1992. p. 11676.
  12. ^ The Revd Professor W Owen Chadwick, St John's College, Cambridge
  13. ^ Methuen, Charlotte. The Journal of Theological Studies, NEW SERIES, 54, no. 1 (2003): 388-91. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23969057.
  14. ^ "No. 48837". The London Gazette. 30 December 1981. p. 8.
  15. ^ Honours—Knighthoods from the official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 25 June 2008
  16. ^ "No. 49543". The London Gazette. 18 November 1983. p. 15251.
  17. ^ Grimes, William (23 July 2015). "Owen Chadwick, Eminent Historian of Christianity, Dies at 99". New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2015.

Further reading

  • Worden, Blair, Derek Beales, and Geoffrey Best, eds. History, Society and the Churches: Essays in Honour of Owen Chadwick. (1985).

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Norman Sykes
Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
Ernest Gordon Rupp
Preceded by
Herbert Butterfield
Regius Professor of Modern History, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Elton
Preceded by
William Telfer
Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Sir Alan Cook
Preceded by
Eric Ashby, Baron Ashby
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
William Alexander Deer
Preceded by
Lord Franks
Chancellor of the University of East Anglia
Succeeded by
Sir Geoffrey Allen
1936 British Lions tour to Argentina

The 1936 Great Britain tour of Argentina was a series of rugby union matches arranged between a British invitational team and various Argentine teams. The tourists played ten matches, nine of which were against club and combined teams while one match took in a full Argentina national team. Despite being sanctioned by the International Rugby Board, no caps were awarded to players from either side.

This was the third and final international tour to South America by a combined British team, and although classed as a Great Britain XV, it was predominantly English, with a handful of Scottish and Irish players.The Lions won all the games played, scoring 399 points and conceding only 12.

Alexis P. Vlasto

Alexis Vlasto (14 November 1915 – 20 July 2000) was a British historian and philologist, specialising in Slavonic studies.

Alleged plot to kidnap Pope Pius XII

Several authors have alleged that there was a plot to kidnap Pope Pius XII by the Nazis when they occupied Rome during World War II. SS General Karl Wolff stated that he had been ordered on September 13, 1943 to kidnap the Pope.

Bombing of the Vatican

Bombing of Vatican City occurred twice during World War II. The first occasion was on the evening of 5 November 1943, when a plane dropped bombs on the area south-west of Saint Peter's Basilica, causing considerable damage but no casualties. The second bombing, which affected only the outer margin of the city, was at about the same hour on 1 March 1944, and caused the death of one person and the injury of another.

Chadwick (surname)

Chadwick is an English surname of Anglo-Saxon origin; it is a combination of the modernised Old English given name Ceadda, and the anglicised Old Norse word vík which was introduced into England by Norsemen settlers. Notable people with the surname include:

Andrés Chadwick (born 1956), Chilean politician

Alan Chadwick (1909–1980), English organic farming innovator

Allan Chadwick, Australian Paralympic shooter

Arthur Chadwick (1875–1936), English footballer

H. Beatty Chadwick (born 1936), American jailed 14 years for civil contempt of court

Cassie Chadwick (1857–1907), Canadian criminal

Cyril Chadwick (1879-1955), English actor

David Chadwick (disambiguation), several people

Drew Chadwick, singer in American reggae pop band Emblem3

Edgar Chadwick (1869–1942), English footballer

Sir Edwin Chadwick (1800–1890), English social reformer

Francis Brooks Chadwick (1850–1942/43), American painter active in France

Frank Chadwick, American game designer and author

French Ensor Chadwick (1844–1919), United States Navy officer who contributed to naval education

George Chadwick (bishop) (1840–1923), Irish Anglican bishop and author

George Whitefield Chadwick (1854–1931), American Romantic composer

George B. Chadwick (1880–1961), American football player and coach

Goretti Chadwick, Samoan-New Zealand stage and television actress, writer, director and tutor

Guy Chadwick (born 1956), English singer, songwriter and guitarist

Hector Munro Chadwick (1870–1947), English philologist and historian

Helen Chadwick (1953–1996), British sculptor, photographer and installation artist

Henry Chadwick (disambiguation), several people

Sir James Chadwick (1891–1974), English physicist, recipient of the 1935 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of the neutron

James Read Chadwick (1844–1905), American gynecologist and medical librarian

Jeff Chadwick (born 1960), American football player

Jeffrey R. Chadwick, American archeologist

John White Chadwick (1840–1904), American writer and Unitarian clergyman

John Chadwick (1920–1998), English linguist and classical scholar, co-decipherer of the Linear B script

Sir John Chadwick (judge) (born 1941), British judge

June Chadwick (born 1951), English actress

Justin Chadwick (born 1968), English actor and director

Kate Morgan Chadwick, American actress and singer

Les Chadwick (born 1943), English bass guitarist

Luke Chadwick (born 1980), English footballer

Lynn Chadwick (1914–2003), English artist and sculptor

Margaret Lee Chadwick (1893-1984), nonfiction author, founder and headmistress of the Chadwick School

Nick Chadwick (born 1982), English footballer and coach

Nora Chadwick (1891–1972), English medievalist

Owen Chadwick (1916–2015), British Anglican priest, academic, writer and historian of Christianity

Peter Chadwick (born 1934), English cricketer

Paul Chadwick (born 1957), American comic-book creator

Paul Chadwick (author) (1902–1972), American pulp magazine author

Rachael Chadwick (born 1990), English professional squash player

Robert Chadwick (1879–1939), New Zealand cricketer

Robert E. Lee Chadwick (1930–2014), American anthropologist and archaeologist

Roy Chadwick (1893–1947), British aircraft design engineer

Samuel Chadwick (1860–1932), English Methodist minister

Sarah Chadwick (born 1960), Australian actress

Sarah Chadwick (activist) (born 2000/01), American activist against gun violence

Sheila Chadwick, American music critic, entertainment news writer, author and host of "The Ghetto Cooking Show"

Stephanie Chadwick (born 1948), New Zealand politician

Stephen F. Chadwick (1825–1895), American Democratic politician

E. Wallace Chadwick (1884–1969), American politician

W. D. Chadwick (1883–1934), American football, baseball and basketball coach

D'Arcy Osborne, 12th Duke of Leeds

Francis D'Arcy Godolphin Osborne, 12th Duke of Leeds, (16 September 1884 – 20 March 1964), known between 1943 and 1963 as Sir D'Arcy Osborne, was a British diplomat.

Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History

The Dixie Professorship of Ecclesiastical History is one of the senior professorships in history at the University of Cambridge.

Lord Mayor of London in the 16th century, Sir Wolstan Dixie, left funds to found both scholarships and fellowships at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. In 1878 the fellowships were abolished and replaced by the professorship that still bears his name.

Ecclesiastical History Society

The Ecclesiastical History Society (EHS) is a learned historical society founded in 1961 to foster interest in, and to advance the study of, all areas of the history of the Christian Church through twice yearly conferences and publications. Founders include Professor Clifford Dugmore of King's College, University of London, Dom David Knowles (the first President) and William Frend. Since then the EHS has held annual conferences based on themes suggested by successive Presidents.There was an Ecclesiastical History Society during the 19th-century. The present Society's history written by Stella Fletcher is called A Very Agreeable Society. Both historians of nonconformity (including Clyde Binfield, Geoffrey Nuttall and W. R. Ward) and Catholic historians (including Eamon Duffy and Bill Sheils) have been Presidents of the EHS. The Society publishes Studies in Church History which reviews current approaches to ecclesiastical history that have been presented at the Summer and Winter conferences of the EHS. Membership comes in two categories - Members and Fellows. The Ecclesiastical History Society is a registered charity.Fellows of the Ecclesiastical History Society include: Rowan Williams, Isabel Rivers, Janet Nelson, Owen Chadwick, Henry Chadwick, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Geoffrey Nuttall, Walter Ullmann, Alec Vidler, Eamon Duffy, William Frend and Averil Cameron.

John Jenkinson (bishop)

John Banks Jenkinson (2 September 1781 – 7 July 1840) was an English bishop who was the Bishop of St David's from 1825.

List of Honorary Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge

St John's College, Cambridge awards honorary fellowships to people who have distinguished themselves in various walks of life.

List of Honorary Fellows of Trinity Hall, Cambridge

This is a list of Honorary Fellows of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

Mani Shankar Aiyar

Sir David Bell

Sir Roy Calne

Owen Chadwick

Peter Clarke

David Cleevely

Sir John Cunningham

Edmund de Waal

John Drury

Alexander Goehr

Sir Ewan Harper

Stephen Hawking

Peter Holland

Sir Anthony Hooper

Andy Hopper

Sir Brian Hoskins

Geoffrey Howe, Baron Howe of Aberavon

Sir Nicholas Hytner

Antony Jameson

Harriet Lamb

John H. Langbein

Sir John Lyons

List of Masters of Selwyn College, Cambridge

The Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge is the official head of the college and a Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. The Master of the College is elected by the fellows of Selwyn College, Cambridge and oversees the direction, development, and promotion of the college. The Master of the College is typically selected for their significant academic, journalistic, political, or cultural contributions. Once a master has been selected by the fellowship they use the title Master-Elect until installed in their new position, typically at the beginning of the academic year. The current master of the college is the former director of BBC News, Roger Mosey.

Martin Charlesworth

Martin Percival Charlesworth (18 January 1895 – 26 October 1950) was a classical scholar.He was born in Eastham, then in Cheshire, the son of Rev Ambrose Charlesworth, the curate of the parish, and Alice Whish. He was educated at Birkenhead School and Jesus College, Cambridge, where he was a Rustat Scholar. He served as an officer in the Egyptian Labour Corps in the Middle East during the First World War. He was placed in the first division of the first class in part one of the Classical Tripos 1920 and in first class in part two in 1921 with distinction in Ancient History.He became a visiting fellow of Princeton (1921-1922) before becoming a fellow of Jesus College in 1921 and then at St John's College, Cambridge (1923-1931). He was appointed to the Laurence Readership in Classics in 1931. In 1927 he was appointed editor of the multi-volume Cambridge Ancient History until its publication in 1932. He was elected President of St John's in 1937. Owen Chadwick described Charlesworth as "a wonderful teacher; a rip-roaring man, full of go and humour, and generosity". He was ordained in 1940, but held no post in the Church. He received honorary degrees from the University of Wales and the University of Bordeaux. During the Second World War he was an active recruiter of talent for code-breakers to be sent to Bletchley Park He died in Leeds in 1950 following a heart attack following an expedition to Hadrian's Wall.

Mirari vos

Mirari vos - Latin: to wonder at you - (On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism), sometimes referred to as Mirari vos arbitramur, is the first encyclical of Pope Gregory XVI and was issued in August 1832. Addressed "To All Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Catholic World", it is general in scope.


In English church history, a Nonconformist was a Protestant who did not "conform" to the governance and usages of the established Church of England. Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, when the Act of Uniformity 1662 re-established the opponents of reform within the Church of England. By the late 19th century the term specifically included the Reformed Christians (Presbyterians, Congregationalists and other Calvinist sects), plus the Baptists and Methodists. The English Dissenters such as the Puritans who violated the Act of Uniformity 1559—typically by practising radical, sometimes separatist, dissent—were retrospectively labelled as Nonconformists.

By law and social custom, Nonconformists were restricted from many spheres of public life—not least, from access to public office, civil service careers, or degrees at university—and were referred to as suffering from civil disabilities. In England and Wales in the late 19th century the new terms "free churchman" and "Free Church" started to replace "dissenter" or "Nonconformist".One influential Nonconformist minister was Matthew Henry, who beginning in 1710 published his multi-volume Commentary that is still used and available in the 21st century. Isaac Watts is an equally recognized Nonconformist minister whose hymns are still sung by Christians worldwide.

Pius XII and the German Resistance

During the Second World War, Pope Pius XII maintained links to the German resistance to Nazism against Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. Although remaining publicly neutral, Pius advised the British in 1940 of the readiness of certain German generals to overthrow Hitler if they could be assured of an honourable peace, offered assistance to the German resistance in the event of a coup and warned the Allies of the planned German invasion of the Low Countries in 1940. The Nazis considered that the Pope had engaged in acts equivalent to espionage.

Under His Very Windows

Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy (2000, Yale University Press) is a book by Susan Zuccotti which examines the role of the Catholic Church in providing aid to Jews in Italy during the Holocaust, and is critical of the actions of the papacy in this regard.

William Chadwick

William Chadwick is the name of:

William Chadwick (footballer), English footballer for Port Vale 1901–1904

William Chadwick (bishop) (1905–1991), Bishop of Barking, 1959–1975

William Owen Chadwick (1916–2015), British professor, writer and historian of Christianity

Bill Chadwick (1915–2009), first U.S.-born referee to serve in the National Hockey League

Billy Chadwick, CSI:Miami character played by Lew Temple

William Chadwick Bourchier (1852–1924), Dean of Cashel

William Chadwick (USCG) namesake for the 50th Sentinel class cutter

USCGC William Chadwick (WPC-1150) will be the 50th Sentinel class cutter

William Tuckwell

William Tuckwell (1829–1919), who liked to be known as the "radical parson", was a Victorian clergyman well-known on political platforms for his experiments in allotments, his advocacy of land nationalisation, and his enthusiasm for Christian socialism. He was an advocate of teaching science in the schools.

In 1864 he became head master of King's College, Taunton, and it was recorded that his "energy and vitality" had increased the size and quality of the school. Later he became head master of New College School.

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