Internationally recognized authority on Roman Catholic Church history; b. Manchester, England, May 11, 1895; d. South Bend, Indiana, Oct. 6, 1967. He was educated in Manchester at St. Bede's College, then at Ushaw seminary and the University of Louvain. This was followed by two years of research in Rome. Following ordination to the priesthood on Aug. 8, 1920, he spent seven years (1924–31) in parish work in the Diocese of Salford before becoming archivist of the Archdiocese of Westminster (1931–43). Poor health required him to relinquish this position but did not prevent him from continuing his research and writing. He became professor of Church history at the University of Notre Dame in 1955, where his courses, spiced with as much wit as learning, became favorites of the graduate students. Frail health forced him to give up regular teaching in 1963, at which point he became a scholar-in-residence.
Hughes's reputation as a scholar is based largely on two major works. The three-volume History of the Church (1933–47), which carried the story up to the beginnings of the Reformation, is a synthesis of the best scholarship of his generation on the subject. His most important study is the three-volume History of the Reformation in England (1951–54). Both works incorporated his penetrating insights and frank evaluations of crucial events and periods.
The range of his scholarship can be seen in such books as The Catholic Question, 1688–1829 (1929), St. John Fisher (1935), and The Life of Pius XI (1937). A priest of deep faith, he wrote two books for the spiritual life of the faithful: The Faith in Practice (rev. ed. 1965) and Meditations for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas (1938). He also wrote three books to help the general reader to understand the background of the Christian world he lived in: A Popular History of the Church (1938), A Popular History of the Reformation (1957), and The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils, 325–1870 (1961).
Bibliography: London Times (Oct. 7, 1967). Catholic Historical Review 53 (1968) 703–704.
[j. a. corbett]