D. C. Somervell

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David Churchill Somervell (16 July 1885 – 17 January 1965) was an English historian and teacher. He taught at three well-known English public schoolsRepton, Tonbridge and Benenden – and was the author of several volumes of history and the editor of well-regarded abridgements of other historians' works.

Life and career[edit]

Somervell was the son of Robert Somervell, a history master and bursar at Harrow School.[1] He was educated at Harrow and Magdalen College, Oxford.[2] Becoming a schoolmaster himself, he taught at Repton from 1909 to 1919, with a break during the First World War, during which he served in the Ministry of Munitions.[3] In 1919 he was appointed history master at Tonbridge School, where he remained until his retirement in 1950.[2] In 1918, he married Dorothea, daughter of the Rev D Harford. They had one son and one daughter.[2] After retiring from Tonbridge he taught at the girls' school Benenden, which was close to his retirement home.[4]

In his Who's Who entry Somervell listed eleven of his books: A Short History of our Religion (1922); Disraeli and Gladstone (1925); English Thought in the Nineteenth Century (1928); The British Empire (1930); The Reign of King George the Fifth (1935); Robert Somervell of Harrow (1935); Livingstone (1936); A History of the United States (1942); A History of Tonbridge School (1947); British Politics since 1900 (1950); and Stanley Baldwin (1953).[2]

The Reign of King George V, (2nd ed, 1936) 550pp; has wide ranging political, social and economic coverage, 1910-35.It is online free.[5]

In addition to his own original writings, Somervell gained a reputation for his skill at abridging lengthy histories and other works into single volumes. His obituarist in The Times singled out a condensation and conflation of "two massive Victorian biographies of Disraeli and Gladstone into one short volume which did not deter the reader", and regarded as his best-known work his compression of Arnold J. Toynbee's ten-volume A Study of History.[1] His adbridgement of the Toynbee work was reissued in two volumes by the Oxford University Press in 1988.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Mr D. C. Somervell: A Great Teacher of History", The Times, 20 January 1965, p. 12
  2. ^ a b c d "Somervell, David Churchill", Who Was Who, Oxford University Press, 2014, retrieved 5 August 2015 (subscription required)
  3. ^ "Mr. D. C. Somervell", The Times, 23 January 1965, p. 14
  4. ^ "Mr. D. C. Somervell", The Times, 27 January 1965, p. 12
  5. ^ See online
  6. ^ "New paperbacks", The Times, 26 March 1988, p. 21

External links[edit]