R. B. McCallum

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Ronald Buchanan McCallum (28 August 1898, Paisley, Renfrewshire – 18 May 1973, Letcombe Regis, Berkshire) was a British historian. He was a fellow (and later Master) of Pembroke College, Oxford, where he taught modern history and politics and was a member of J. R. R. Tolkien's Inklings. McCallum was also the creator of the term psephology (statistical analysis of elections).[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

The fourth and youngest son of Andrew Fischer McCallum, a master dyer, and his wife, Catherine Buchanan Gibson, he was educated at Paisley Grammar School and Trinity College, Glenalmond. During the First World War, he served for two years between 1917 and 1919 as a member of the labour corps of the British expeditionary force in France.

Returning to Britain, he obtained a place at Worcester College, Oxford, where he read history and took his degree with first class honours in 1922.[3]

Academic career[edit]

After spending a year at Princeton University in 1922 and 1923, he became lecturer in history at Glasgow University. In 1925, Pembroke College, Oxford, elected him a fellow and tutor in history and was a member of the Senior Common Room with R.G. Collingwood and Tolkien. He was a tutor for several generations of undergraduates in British history and political institutions, including an influential seminar on British parliamentary procedure. One of his most famous pupils was the Rhodes Scholar and future American Senator J. William Fulbright. Elected to several college offices over the next thirty years, he became Master of Pembroke College in 1955.

He was the first non-clerical head of the College since 1714. In addition, he held university offices, including serving as Senior Proctor in 1942 and 1943 and Pro-Vice Chancellor in 1961 as well as the university member of the Oxford City Council, 1958-1967.[3] McCallum served as editor of The Oxford Magazine for three terms, 1933, 1967, and 1972.[4]

As Master of Pembroke, he oversaw a transformation of the college that reflected the changes established by the Butler Education Act of 1944. In his tenure, the number of fellows increased and began to include natural scientists. He created the college's north quadrangle in 1962 by converting a row of historic houses between Pembroke Street and Beef Lane. In 1967, he resigned the mastership of Pembroke to become principal of what, the following year, was named the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Foundation of St Catharines housed at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park. He retained the post until 1971.[3]

McCallum is widely remembered for his work as an historian and analyst of British public opinion. The professor coined the word psephology to describe the academic study of elections, but in this retained his focus as an historian and did not venture into sociological approaches.[3]


  • Asquith (biography, 1936). Great Lives Series.
  • England and France, 1939-1943 (1944).
  • Public Opinion and the Last Peace (1944).
  • The British General Election of 1945 (1947). With Alison Readman.
  • The Liberal Party from Earl Grey to Asquith (1963). Men and Ideas Series.

External links[edit]

  • "Inklings". The Mythopoeic Society. Archived from the original on January 15, 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2008. 


  1. ^ "Obituary". The Times. 21 May 1973. 
  2. ^ Pembroke College Record (1974)
  3. ^ a b c d Pelczynski, Z. A.; Matthew, H. C. G. "McCallum, Ronald Buchanan (1898-1973)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
  4. ^ Glyer, Diana Pavlac (2007). The Company They Keep. Kent, OH: Kent State UP. ISBN 978-0-87338-890-0. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
Frederick Homes Dudden
Master of Pembroke College, Oxford
1955 to 1967
Succeeded by
Sir George Pickering