University of Manchester, Department of History Archive

  • Reference
      GB 133 DHI
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      21 items
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

The archive comprise primarily records of the department's committees from the late 1960s onwards. Until this period, the University's academic departments did not have standing committees to organise academic work, with most of this work being undertaken by the Faculty Board, and to a lesser extent, the University Senate. However, with the University growing ever larger in size and with demands from junior staff and students alike for a greater voice in decision-making, most academic departments instituted committees to carry out their work during the 1960s. This was confirmed by the revised University charter of 1973, which mandated departmental boards as standing committees, charged with organizing the department's academic work. Students were represented on these boards, and it was normal for departments to have a staff-student consultative committee. During the 1980s and 1990s, with the more formal methods of monitoring academic performance and financial resource allocation being introduced, this committee organization became more complex. For this department, records are present for the departmental board (DHI/1), the standing committee of the board (DHI/2), the staff-student committee (DHI/3), the undergraduate committee (DHI/4) and the syllabus and assessment committee (DHI/5).

Previous to these developments, the main bodies of records produced by academic departments were those of the head of department, who had a major (and personal) role in developing the department's academic policies and strategies. Typically, these records, in the forms of files or correspondence, were treated as the personal property of the head of department, and were not deposited in departmental archives, with the decision on their long-term disposition resting with the individual concerned. . In most cases, these records have not survived,a nd none have been traced for this particular department.

In addition, most prospectus and promotional literature was produced by the Faculties until the 1980s. However, departmental did occasionally issue their own prospectuses and guides for students. In this archive, such guides are present from the 1920s through to the 1980s.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Department of History was one of the largest and most influential departments of the University of Manchester. It has been credited with playing a leading role in the development of the history in British universities.

When Owens College opened in 1851, history was not a designated subjects of study, and no history teacher was appointed. However, in 1854, Richard Copley Christie was appointed professor of history (from 1855, he had additional responsibilities for political economy and law). Christie was essentially a lawyer, and the subject did not make major advances during his tenure. Christie's successor in 1866, Adolphus William Ward, was a recognised historian and he was responsible for building up the subject as a district discipline. Ward was responsible for introducing an honours degree in history in 1882; he remained professor until 1897, but as his time was increasingly taken up with administrative posts (he was vice-chancellor of the Victoria University, 1887-1891 and Principal of Owens, 1889-1897), he played a lesser role in the department from the late 1880s.

From 1890 to the early 1920s, the dominate figure in the department was Thomas Frederick Tout, (professor of history 1890-1902, professor of medieval and modern history 1902-1920, and professor of history and director of advanced studies 1920-1925). Tout, ably supported by his fellow medievalist James Tait, was a major figure in the development of academic history in the UK, and one of the dominant figures in the University until his retirement. Tout successful raised the profile of history within the University, until it enjoyed comparable status to the scientific and medical departments. Tout was effective in recruiting and nurturing a highly effective group of teachers and researchers, who included Maurice Powicke, Ramsay Muir, and George Unwin. Tout also reformed the history syllabus, encouraging students to undertake direct study of primary sources, and introducing an undergraduate dissertation. The department also broadened its coverage to include economic history (through George Unwin, professor of economic history, 1910-1925), and post 17th century British and European history (initially, through Ramsay Muir, professor of modern history, 1914-1921). The history department also developed an active research culture, with a number of students pursuing masters degrees, and from 1918 the Ph.D., a degree which Tout helped establish.

During the inter-war period, the department continued to attract high calibre academics including Lewis Namier (professor of modern history 1931-1953), and Ernest Jacob, professor of medieval history 1929-1944. Their post-war successors included Albert Goodwin, professor of modern history 1953-1969, his successor, Michael Foot, (professor 1969-1973), Arthur Redford, professor of economic history, from 1945-1961), Thomas Willan professor of economic history 1962-1979, C R Cheney, professor of medieval history 1945-1955, John Roskell, professor of medieval history (1962-1979). In the post-war period, the department expanded, with joint degrees with politics and economics being established.

Historians who have been departmental staff members include Gerald Aylmer, Max Beloff, Judith Brown, W. H. Chaloner, H.W.C. Davis, M. R. D. Foot, Christopher Haigh, Norman Hampson, Patrick Joyce, Sir Ian Kershaw, H. G. Koenigsberger, Gordon Leff, Sir Colin Lucas, Brian Manning, Sir John Neale, Francis O'Gorman, Harold Perkin, Brian Pullan, Terence Ranger, R. F. Treharne, Gordon Rupp, A. J. P. Taylor, Michael Wallace-Hadrill, J. R. Western and Thomas Willan.


Collection arranged by series:

  • DHI/1 - Departmental Board minutes
  • DHI/2 - Departmental Standing Committee minutes
  • DHI/3 - Staff-Student Consultative Committee
  • DHI/4 - Undergraduate Teaching Committee
  • DHI/5- Syllabus and Assessment Committee papers
  • DHI/6 - Promotional materials

Access Information

Parts of this collection are closed to public inspection. Please contact for further information.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Acquisition Information

Two accessions: Transferred by the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures in 2010.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


Further accruals possible.

Related Material

The records of the University Senate (USE) and the Board of the Faculty of Arts (FAR) may contain information relevant to staffing, curriculum and syllabus matters for the department. Annual reports (1903-1996) can be found in the Reports of Council (UOP/2) ; general prospectus information in the prospectuses collection (primarily the Faculty of Arts handbooks).

The Vice-Chancellor's archive is also an important source of information for the department, especially for the pre-1970 era. VCA/7/56: 1934-1955, VCA/7/413: 1957-1966, VCA/7/611: 1966-1980. There are also several professorial appointments files for the 1950s-1960s.

History students produced a newsletter Clarion between 1972-1989 UMP/2/24, and since 2010 a new magazine UMP/2/39Manchester Historian has been issued on a regular basis.

The Library has custody of the personal papers of several departmental historians, most importantly, T. F. Tout, (TFT, only partly catalogued); James Tait (TAI), Maurice Powicke (FMP), Mark Hovel (HOV), George Unwin (UNW, and Lewis Namier (NAM). Uncatalogued papers include those of Eric John, John Roskell, Edward Fiddes, Robert Dunlop, T H Willan, and Jack Hyde.

A W Ward's papers are held at Peterhouse, Cambridge.


There is no full-scale study of the Manchester history department, and most attention to date has related to Tout's period in charge of the department.

Peter Slee, Learning and a liberal education: the study of modern history in the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester (Manchester 1988), has a brief account of the 'Manchester History School' during the Victorian period. P.D.M. Blaas, Continuity and anachronism: parliamentary and constitutional development in Whig historiography and in the anti-Whig reaction between 1890 and 1930 (The Hague 1978) includes a useful account of Tout's work as a historian.

Geographical Names