Charles Harding Firth

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Charles Harding Firth
Born (1857-03-16)16 March 1857
Broom Spring House, Wilkinson Street, Ecclesall, Sheffield, England
Died 19 February 1936(1936-02-19) (aged 78)
Acland Hospital, Oxford
Resting place Wolvercote, Oxford
Nationality British
Education Clifton College
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Occupation Historian
Known for Works on the English Civil War and the Commonwealth
Title Regius Professor of Modern History
Term 1904–1925
Predecessor Frederick York Powell
Successor Henry William Carless Davis

Sir Charles Harding Firth (16 March 1857 – 19 February 1936) was a British historian.

Born in Sheffield, he was educated at Clifton College and at Balliol College, Oxford. At university he took the Stanhope prize for an essay on Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley in 1877, became lecturer at Pembroke College in 1887, and fellow of All Souls College in 1901. He was Ford's lecturer in English history in 1900, was elected FBA in 1903[1] and became Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford in succession to Frederick York Powell in 1904. Firth's historical work was almost entirely confined to English history during the time of the English Civil War and the Commonwealth; and although he is somewhat overshadowed by S.R. Gardiner, who wrote about the same period, his books were highly regarded.

Teaching vs scholarship

He was a great friend and ally of T.F. Tout, who was professionalising the History undergraduate programme at Manchester University, especially by introducing a key element of individual study of original sources and production of a thesis. Firth's attempts to do likewise at Oxford brought him into bitter conflict with the college fellows, who had little research expertise of their own and saw no reason why their undergraduates should be made to acquire such arcane, even artisan, skills, given their likely careers. They saw Firth as a power-seeker for the university professoriate as against the role of the colleges as proven finishing-schools for the country and empire's future establishment. Firth failed but the twentieth century saw universities go his and Tout's way. [2]

He was president of the Royal Historical Society from 1913 to 1917.[3]

Firth's letters to Tout are in the latter's collection in the John Rylands Library, Manchester University.

Major works

He also edited the Clarke Papers (1891–1901), and Mrs Hutchinson's Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson (1885), and wrote an introduction to the Stuart Tracts, 1603–1693 (1903), besides contributions to the Dictionary of National Biography. In 1909 he published The Last Years of the Protectorate.

See also


  1. "FIRTH, Charles Harding". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 598.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Reba Soffer, "Nation, duty, character and confidence: history at Oxford, 1850–1914." Historical Journal (1987) 30#01 pp: 77-104.
  3. "List of Presidents". The Royal Historical Society. Retrieved 20 December 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Ivan Roots, ‘Firth, Sir Charles Harding (1857–1936)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) accessed 10 Nov 2014

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
William Cunningham
President of the Royal Historical Society
Succeeded by
Charles Oman