William Stubbs

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Stubbs, William (1829–1901). Bishop and historian. Stubbs was one of the last of the Victorian scholars who, like Macaulay, could pursue a separate career yet make a massive contribution to historical study. Born at Knaresborough, son of a solicitor, he remarked that under the shadow of the great castle, he could hardly fail to be interested in history. On graduating from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1848, he became a fellow of Trinity, Oxford, but in 1850 moved to a college living at Navestock in Essex. His private studies led to the regius chair of modern history at Oxford in 1866, which he held until 1883, when he became bishop of Chester, and from 1888 of Oxford. His Select Charters (1860) became prescribed reading for generations of undergraduates, he edited nineteen volumes of the Rolls series, and his Constitutional History appeared from 1873 to 1878. Though a devoted Tory and a high churchman, his historical approach was whiggish: of the English constitution he wrote that his aim was to trace ‘a distinct growth from a well-defined germ to full maturity’. Stubbs was severely taken to task by 20th-cent. historians for sentimentality towards Parliament as an institution. But by refusing to acknowledge the context in which he lived and worked, they convicted themselves of the very fault of which they complained so loudly.

J. A. Cannon

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William Stubbs, 1825–1901, English historian, educated at Oxford. Ordained in 1850, he was a professor of modern history at Oxford until in 1884 he was made bishop of Chester. Stubbs's critical studies of source materials transformed the study of medieval history. His Constitutional History of England (3 vol., 1874–78) and Select Charters (1870, 9th ed. rev. by H. W. Davis, 1913) remain standard textbooks. Stubbs also edited many texts for the "Rolls Series" of medieval English chronicles.