In 1866 Ward was appointed professor of history and English literature in Owens College, Manchester, and was principal from 1890 to 1897, when he retired. He took an active part in the foundation of Victoria University, of which he was vice-chancellor from 1886 to 1890 and from 1894 to 1896, and he was a founder of Withington Girls' School in 1890. He was a Member of the Chetham Society, serving as a Member of Council from 1884 and as President from 1901 until 1915. In 1897, the freedom of the city of Manchester was conferred upon him, he delivered the Ford Lectures at Oxford University in 1898, and on 29 October 1900 he was elected master of Peterhouse, Cambridge.
Ward's major work is his standard History of English Dramatic Literature to the Age of Queen Anne (1875), re-edited after a thorough revision in three volumes in 1899. He also wrote The House of Austria in the Thirty Years' War (1869), Great Britain and Hanover: Some Aspects of the Personal Union (1899), and The Electress Sophia and the Hanoverian Succession (1903) (2nd ed. 1909).
Ward edited George Crabbe's Poems (2 vols., 1905–1906) and Alexander Pope's Poetical Works (1869); he wrote the volumes on Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens in the "English Men of Letters" series, translated Ernst Curtius's History of Greece (5 vols., 1868–1873); with G. W. Prothero and Stanley Mordaunt Leathes he edited the Cambridge Modern History between 1901 and 1912, and with A. R. Waller edited the Cambridge History of English Literature (1907, etc.).
Ward's collected papers were published in 5 volumes by Cambridge University Press in 1921.
- "Ward, Adolphus William (WRT855AW)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ward, Adolphus William". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 319.
- Newsletter 1936-1937. Withington Girls’ School. 5 February 1937.
- "Chetham Society: Officers and Council" (PDF). Chetham Society. 4 November 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- The colleges and halls - Peterhouse | British History Online
- "List of Presidents". Royal Historical Society. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
- "Birthday Honours". The Times. London, England: The Times. 3 June 1913. pp. 9–10.
The distinguished historian and critic; Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, since 1900; Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, 1901; one of the editors of the Cambridge Modern History of the Cambridge History of English Literature
- The House of Austria in the Thirty Years' War, archive.org
- Great Britain and Hanover: Some Aspects of the Personal Union, archive.org
- The Electress Sophia and the Hanoverian Succession, archive.org
- Hutton, W. H. (October 1922). "The Collected Papers of A. W. Ward". The Quarterly Review. 238: 314–326.
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Joseph Gouge Greenwood
| Vice-Chancellor, Victoria University (UK)
Gerald Henry Rendall
Gerald Henry Rendall
| Vice-Chancellor, Victoria University (UK) 2nd term
| Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge
| Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Frederic Henry Chase
Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff
| President of the Royal Historical Society
George Walter Prothero