Charles Harding Firth
|Charles Harding Firth|
16 March 1857|
Broom Spring House, Wilkinson Street, Ecclesall, Sheffield, England
|Died||19 February 1936
Acland Hospital, Oxford
|Alma mater||Balliol College, Oxford|
|Known for||Works on the English Civil War and the Commonwealth|
|Title||Regius Professor of Modern History|
|Predecessor||Frederick York Powell|
|Successor||Henry William Carless Davis|
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 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. 
Firth's letters to Tout are in the latter's collection in the John Rylands Library, Manchester University.
- Life of the Duke of Newcastle (1886)
- Scotland and the Commonwealth (1895)
- Scotland and the Protectorate (1899)
- Narrative of General Venables (1900)
- Oliver Cromwell and the Rule of the Puritans in England (1900)
- Cromwell's Army: A History of the English Soldier during the Civil Wars, the Commonwealth and the Protectorate (1902) (publication of Firth's Ford Lectures given at Oxford, 1900–1901)
- The standard edition of Ludlow's Memoirs (1894).
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.
- Oliver Cromwell
- Duke of Newcastle
- Edmund Ludlow
- Colonel John Hutchinson
- Robert Venables
- Sir William Clarke
- Ivan Roots, ‘Firth, Sir Charles Harding (1857–1936)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) accessed 10 Nov 2014
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Firth, Charles Harding". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
|President of the Royal Historical Society