John Richard Green

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John Richard Green
Born(1837-12-12)12 December 1837
Oxford, England
Died7 March 1883(1883-03-07) (aged 45)
Alma materJesus College, Oxford
  • Clergyman
  • historian
  • librarian
Years active1869–1883
Notable work
A Short History of the English People (1874)
Alice Stopford (m. 1877)
Ecclesiastical career
ReligionChristianity (Anglican)
ChurchChurch of England

John Richard Green (12 December 1837 – 7 March 1883) was an English historian.

Early life[edit]

Green was born on 12 December 1837,[1] the son of a tradesman in Oxford, where he was educated, first at Magdalen College School, and then at Jesus College, Oxford,[2] where he is commemorated by the J. R. Green Society, which meets several times a term and is run by students from the undergraduate body.[citation needed] He grew up in a high-church Tory family from which he rebelled as early as 1850, being "temporarily banished from his uncle's house for ridiculing the uproar over 'Papal Aggression.'"[3]


Ecclesiastical career[edit]

He entered the church, being ordained to the diaconate in 1860,[4] and served various cures in London, under a constant strain caused by delicate health.[2] Always an enthusiastic student of history, the little leisure time he had was devoted to research.[2]

Turn to historical writings[edit]

In 1869 he finally gave up his work as a clergyman, and was appointed librarian at Lambeth.[2] He had been laying plans for various historical works, including a History of the English Church as exhibited in a series of Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, and, what he proposed as his magnum opus, a history of England under the Angevin kings.[2] After suffering from failing health he abandoned these projects and instead concentrated his energies on the preparation of his A Short History of the English People, which appeared in 1874, and at once gave him an assured place in the first rank of historical writers.[2]

Abandoning his proposed history of the Angevins, he confined himself to expanding his Short History into A History of the English People in four volumes (1878–1880) and writing The Making of England, of which one volume only, coming down to 828, had appeared when he died at Mentone in March 1883.[2] After his death appeared The Conquest of England.[2] The Short History, which in 1915 was republished as part of the Everyman Library,[citation needed] may be said to have begun a new epoch in the writing of history, making the social, industrial, and moral progress of the people its main theme.[5] It sold 235,000 copies in England alone.[6]

More recently J. W. Burrow proposed that Green, like William Stubbs and Edward Augustus Freeman, was a historical scholar with little or no experience of public affairs, with views of the present that were Romantically historicised, and who was drawn to history by what was in a broad sense an antiquarian passion for the past, as well as a patriotic and populist impulse to identify the nation and its institutions as the collective subject of English history, making

... the new historiography of early medieval times an extension, filling out and democratising, of older Whig notions of continuity. It was Stubbs who presented this most substantially; Green who made it popular and dramatic ... It is in Freeman ... of the three the most purely a narrative historian, that the strains are most apparent.[7]

Personal life[edit]

In 1877 he married Alice Stopford.[8]

During the 1870s Green suffered from lung problems.[citation needed] His wife assisted him in carrying out and completing his work as his broken health took its toll during his few remaining years.[2] He died on 7 March 1883.[9]




  1. ^ Stephen 1901, p. 1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cousin 1910, p. 167.
  3. ^ Jann 1985, p. 142.
  4. ^ Creighton 1890, p. 47.
  5. ^ Cousin 1910, pp. 167–168.
  6. ^ Jann 1985, p. 141.
  7. ^ Burrow 1981, p. 227.
  8. ^ Cousin 1910, p. 167; Creighton 1890, p. 48.
  9. ^ Creighton 1890, p. 48.
  10. ^ "Review of Readings from English Literature selected and edited by J. R. Green". The Athenæum (2700): 111. 26 July 1879.
  11. ^ a b "Review of Origins of English History by Charles Elton, 1882; Celtic Britain by J. Rhys, 1882; The Making of England by J. R. Green, 1881; The Conquest of England by J. R. Green, 1883; The Student's Hume revised by J. S. Brewer, 1880". The Quarterly Review. 159: 424–450. April 1885.


Burrow, J. W. (1981). A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-24079-6.
Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. This article incorporates text from this public-domain publication.
Creighton, Mandell (1890). "Green, John Richard". In Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 28. New York: Macmillan and Co. pp. 46–49.
Jann, Rosemary (1985). The Art and Science of Victorian History. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press. hdl:1811/25208. ISBN 978-0-8142-0390-3.
Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1901). The Letters of John Richard Green. London: Macmillan and Co. OCLC 00851434. Retrieved 6 April 2018.[1]

Further reading[edit]

Addison, William George (1946). J. R. Green. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. OCLC 2392036.
Blaas, P. B. M. (1978). Continuity and Anachronism: Parliamentary and Constitutional Development in Whig Historiography and in the Anti-Whig Reaction between 1890 and 1930. International Archives of the History of Ideas. 91. The Hague, Netherlands: M. Nijhoff. ISBN 978-90-247-2063-7.
Brundage, Anthony (1994). The People's Historian: John Richard Green and the Writing of History in Victorian England. Studies in Historiography. 2. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-27954-6.
McDowell, R. B. (1967). Alice Stopford Green: A Passionate Historian. Dublin: Allen Figgis & Co. OCLC 2866130.
Schuyler, R. L. (1949). "John Richard Green and His Short History". Political Science Quarterly. 64 (3): 321–354. doi:10.2307/2144804. ISSN 0032-3195.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ "Review of Letters of John Richard Green edited by Leslie Stephen". The Athenæum (3867): 765–767. 7 December 1901.