Owen Chadwick

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The Reverend
Owen Chadwick
Full name William Owen Chadwick
Date of birth (1916-05-20) 20 May 1916 (age 99)
Place of birth Bromley, Kent, England
School Tonbridge School
University St John's College, Cambridge
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Hooker
Professional / senior clubs
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1936–1938 Cambridge University
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1936 British Isles XV

William Owen Chadwick, OM, KBE, FBA, FRSE (/ˈædwɪk/; born 20 May 1916) is a British professor, writer and prominent historian of Christianity. He was also a rugby union player. He was Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge from 1956 to 1983, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History from 1958 to 1968, and Regius Professor of History from 1968 to 1983.


Early life and education[edit]

Chadwick was born in Bromley in 1916. He was the elder brother of the Very Reverend Professor Henry Chadwick, also a distinguished historian of the early Church and a former Dean of Christ Church, University of Oxford, and younger brother of Sir John Chadwick KCMG, a diplomat whose senior posting was as British Ambassador to Romania.[1]

Chadwick attended Tonbridge School and St John's College, Cambridge, where he received three Blues in rugby when he represented Cambridge University in the annual Varsity Match against Oxford in 1936, 1937 and 1938.[2] In 1936, during his first year at Cambridge, he was selected to tour with a Great Britain team in their third trip to Argentina.[3] Although no caps were awarded on this tour, Chadwick did play in the one match against the full Argentina side, playing in his favoured position of hooker in a 23–0 victory.[4] During the 1937/38 season, Chadwick played for invitational touring side, the Barbarians.[5]

After receiving a First in History, Chadwick then attended Cuddesdon College (a theological college) and was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood of the Church of England.

Cambridge career[edit]

After the War (during which he was chaplain of Wellington College), he was made Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1947. He was elected Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge in 1955 – where he was close neighbour and friend of David Briggs, head of King's College School – retiring in 1983. He took a keen interest in sport and was elected to membership of the Hermes Club. In 1958 he was named Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, during which time he chaired the Archbishops' Commission on Church and State (1967–1971).

In 1968, he was elected Regius Professor of Modern History, a chair which he held until 1982, and was President of the British Academy during the early 1980s. As Vice-Chancellor he guided Cambridge through turbulent times in the late 1960s; and was Chancellor of the University of East Anglia between 1984 and 1994.


He has written many books, on the formation of the papacy in the modern world; on Lord Acton; on the secularisation of European thought and culture; on the Reformation; on the Church of England in England and elsewhere. He has notably participated in the debate about Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust.

Chadwick's books include:

From Bossuet to Newman (1957); Victorian Miniature (1960); The Victorian Church (in two volumes, 1966 and 1970); The Secularization of the European Mind in the 19th Century (1975); Newman (in the OUP's "Past Masters" series; 1983) and Hensley Henson: A study in the Friction between Church and State (1983).

With Henry Chadwick, he edited the Oxford History of the Christian Church (1981-2010), to which he also contributed three of its twelve volumes: The Popes and European Revolution (1980), A History of the Popes 1830–1914 (1998), and The Early Reformation on the Continent (2003).

Chadwick was also the General Editor of the Penguin (formerly Pelican) History of the Church, to which he contributed the third volume (The Reformation) and the seventh (The Christian Church in the Cold War, 1992). His brother Henry Chadwick wrote the first volume in the series (The Early Church, 1967).


He was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1982 New Year Honours.[6] As a clergyman he did not receive the accolade and so remained The Revd Owen Chadwick rather than Sir Owen Chadwick.[7] He was appointed to the Order of Merit (OM) on 11 November 1983.[8]

Historical manuscripts commission[edit]

He served as a member of the Historical Manuscripts Commission for a period prior to 1992.[9]


  1. ^ PHS. "The Times Diary—Chadwick favourite for Dean, OAPs in TV licence rumpus, Holiday Inns here to stay" (News). The Times (London). Wednesday, 9 July 1969. (57607), col D, p. 10.
  2. ^ Marshall, Howard; Jordon, J.P. (1951). Oxford v Cambridge, The Story of the University Rugby Match. London: Clerke & Cockeran. p. 252. 
  3. ^ Owen Chadwick rugby profile ESPN Scrum.com
  4. ^ "La Unión de Rugby del Río de la Plata". UAR.com. 1937. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Starmer-Smith, Nigel (1977). The Barbarians. Macdonald & Jane's Publishers. p. 219. ISBN 0-86007-552-4. 
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 48837. p. 8. 30 December 1981. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
  7. ^ Honours—Knighthoods from the official website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 25 June 2008
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 49543. p. 15251. 18 November 1983. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 52987. p. 11676. 10 July 1992. Retrieved 26 June 2008.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Norman Sykes
Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
Ernest Gordon Rupp
Preceded by
Herbert Butterfield
Regius Professor of Modern History, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Elton
Preceded by
William Telfer
Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Sir Alan Cook
Preceded by
Eric Ashby, Baron Ashby
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
William Alexander Deer
Preceded by
Lord Franks
Chancellor of the University of East Anglia
Succeeded by
Sir Geoffrey Allen