The History of the University of Oxford

By Haydon, Colin | Anglican and Episcopal History, September 2000 | Go to article overview

The History of the University of Oxford


Haydon, Colin, Anglican and Episcopal History


NICHOLAS TYACKE, ED. The History of the University of Oxford. Volume IV: Seventeenth-Century Oxford. Oxford: Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997. Pp. xxi + 1008, illustrations, index. $140.00.

Two of Oxford's finest seventeenth-century buildings, the Canterbury quadrangle of St. John's College and the Sheldonian Theatre, were commissioned by archbishops of Canterbury-respectively William Laud and, of course, Gilbert Sheldon. Given the university's colossal rôle in molding the character, defining the theology, and supplying so many of the personnel of the Church of England, readers of this periodical will naturally find a huge amount to interest them in the volumes of The History of the University of Oxford covering the post-Reformation period.

The History is a massive enterprise, and, for this fourth volume Nicholas Tyacke has secured the services of sixteen other distinguished scholars. The voluminous footnotes alone would demonstrate the rich scholarship which underpins the essays. Tyacke provides an overall introduction and, while most contributors supply one chapter on their specialism, Mordechai Feingold and Robert Beddard each contribute three. The volume as a whole chronicles an exciting intellectual world, with a heady mixture of old and new thinking, and at just a general level, it makes fascinating reading (and can be navigated using the excellent fifty-four page index). Nonetheless, students of church history will find seven out of the nineteen chapters of particular interest.

Kenneth Fincham's essay on "Oxford and the Early Stuart Polity" in part charts Laud's drive for religious uniformity, and the opposition to it, at the university, while Tyacke himself provides a detailed survey of religious controversies there throughout the century. Ian Roy and Dietrich Reinhart describe the traumas of the Civil Wars, and Blair Worden assesses the impact of the Cromwellian régime. Lastly, in three splendid essays, Robert Beddard examines Restoration Oxford and the rebuilding of the Protestant establishment and James II's challenge to it.

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