Papers of Thomas Frederick Tout

  • Reference
      GB 133 TFT
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English (unless otherwise stated)
  • Physical Description
      1429 files containing approx. 6434 items of correspondence.
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate

Scope and Content

The papers of Thomas Frederick Tout and his family, including his wife, Mary Tout, son Herbert and daughter, Margaret are extensive. The collection provides detailed documentation of the life and work of one of the country's leading historians in the first decades of the twentieth century, as well as insights into the lives and activities of the Tout family as a whole.

Tout's own papers include notebooks, drafts of many historical works, newspaper cuttings, photographs, and a large quantity of correspondence. Tout was active in many different spheres of public life, and this is reflected in the subject matter of his correspondence, which dates from his student days in the 1870s to his death in 1929. Overall, the collection is one of the most useful for the activities and opinions of professional historians, particularly Tout's fellow medievalists, during this period.

Tout's papers provide important insights into the British historical profession and historiography in the early twentieth century. His extensive correspondence with historians and scholars provides much information on historical teaching, research and publication (both by Tout and others). There is material on the "Manchester School of History", Tout's relationships with historians in the UK and beyond, and the production and reception of Tout's publications, including his textbooks, both from a business and academic point of view. The Tout papers are also informative about the operation of scholarly bodies and enterprises such as the British Academy, Royal Historical Society, Institute for Historical Research, International Historical Association and the Dictionary of National Biography.

Tout's correspondents include most leading British historians of the time, and for some of these individuals correspondence is substantial. The following historians and scholars may be noted: W J Ashley (TFT/1/37), Mary Bateson (TFT/1/71), Charles Bemont (TFT/1/98), Alice Cooke (TFT/1/216), W. A. B. Coolidge (TFT/1/217), George Coulton (TFT/1/221), H. W. C. Davis (TFT/1/264), Roland Delachanel (TFT/1/273), Robert Dunlop (TFT/1/297 ), J. Goronwy Edwardes (TFT/1/312 ), Charles Lett Feltoe ( TFT/1/360), Charles Harding Firth TFT/1/367, (152 letters - invaluable for historical studies at Oxford), V H Galbraith (TFT/1/393), Samuel Rawson Gardiner (TFT/1/397), Charles Homer Haskins (TFT/1/497), Mark Hovell (TFT/1/545), Hilda Johnstone (TFT/1/604), W. P. Ker (TFT/1/636), Gaillard Lapsley (TFT/1/666), Norman Lewis (TFT/1/692), Felix Liebermann (TFT/1/699), Wallace Lindsay (TFT/1/705), A. G. Little (TFT/1/706), J. E. Lloyd (TFT/1/721), Richard Lodge (TFT/1/727), Sidney Low (TFT/1/733), H. E. Malden (TFT/1/760), J. E. Morris (TFT/1/833), Ramsay Muir (TFT/1/842), Henry Pirenne (TFT/1/945), A. F. Pollard (TFT/1/949), R L Poole [108 letters] (TFT/1/953), Frederick York Powell (TFT/1/959), Maurice Powicke (TFT/1/962), G W Prothero (TFT/1/975), Cyril Ransome (TFT/1/995), Hasting Rashdall (TFT/1/998), J. H. Round (TFT/1/1040), Ada Russell (TFT/1/1046 ), A. L. Smith (TFT/1/1121), Frank Stenton (TFT/1/1139), William Stubbs (TFT/1/1148), James Tait (TFT/1/1155), Harold Temperley (TFT/1/1165), George Unwin (TFT/1/1208), Charles Vaughan ( TFT/1/1216 ), Paul Vinogradoff (TFT/1/1226), A. W. Ward (TFT/1/1242) [155 letters], Spenser Wilkinson (TFT/1/1288), J. F. Willard (TFT/1/1289), and J. H. Wylie (TFT/1/1338). There is also correspondence with professional archivists such as C G Crump (TFT/1/233), Hubert Hall (TFT/1/466), and Charles Johnson (TFT/1/599), and the collection as a whole includes much incidental comment on the use of archives as tools in historical research, including Tout's evidence to the Royal Commission on Public Records.

There are also letters from the literary scholar Oliver Elton (TFT/1/323), F. Israel Gollancz (TFT/1/420), F. C. Montague (TFT/1/824), and Sir Sidney Lee (TFT/1/672 (126 letters).

Academic affairs at the University of Manchester are well covered as is similar subject matter for St. David’s College, Lampeter, where Tout spent almost a decade, for the latter, see W. H. Davey (TFT/1/249), C G Edmondes (TFT/1/308), Owen Evans (TFT/1/343), W. H. Hutton (TFT/1/564), Frank Jayne (TFT/1/585), John Owen, bishop of St David's (TFT/1/1055), John Sankey (TFT/1063), A. W. Scott (TFT/1/1078), Hugh Walker (TFT/1/1238), F R Williams ( TFT/1/1295), and Robert Williams (TFT/1/1299 ). Tout's connections with his former school, St. Olave’s Grammar School, are covered in TFT/1/596 and TFT/1/792.

The Tout papers are also a useful source of information for the First World War. Many of Tout's students, male and female, undertook military service or war-related work, and they related their experiences in letters to their former teacher. The following correspondents may be noted in this respect: G. S. Baldwin (TFT/1/47), R H Bedford (TFT/1/88), P. W. Brown (TFT/1/136), J. C. Carr (TFT1/167), F. S. Cook (TFT/1/215), Herbert Eckersely (TFT/1/304), J. G. Edwards (TFT/1/312), V. H. Galbraith (TFT/1/393), M V Gregory (TFT/1/445), Robert Hedley (TFT/1/508), C. S.S. Higham (TFT/1/519), Mark Hovell (TFT/1/545), T S Hurrell (TFT/1/560), Basil Jackson (TFT/1/574), Harold James (TFT/1/580), Arthur Langford Jones (TFT/1/609), Harold Kay (TFT/1/627), S. O. Moffat (TFT/1/822), Sydney Philipson (TFT/1/936 ), R. H. Pilling (TFT/1/943), Albert Price (TFT/1/973), Arthur Redford (TFT/1/1001), William Shaw (TFT/1/1095), Gerald van der Veen (TFT/1/1212), G. S. Watson (TFT/1/1257), J A Wildblood (TFT/1/1284 ), and John Wood (TFT/1/1320). There is also material on women students undertaking war-related work, e.g. Lila Dibben (TFT/1/278), Margaret Dibben (TFT/1/279), Florence Evans (TFT/1/336), and Gertrude Powicke (TFT/1/963).

Overall, the Tout papers are one of the largest and most important collections covering academic history in Britain between. c.1890-1930. They demonstrate Tout's significance as a historian, institution-builder and academic politician. They provide invaluable information on contemporary academic networks, historical writing and teaching, academic publishing, and cast interesting sidelights on the sociology and mentalités of the British historical profession at a key point in its development.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Frederick Tout was born at Norwood on 28 September 1855, the son of Thomas Tout, a wine merchant, and Anne Charlotte, née Finch. Tout attended St Olave’s Grammar School, Southwark, then undergoing an educational revival. In 1874 he won a Brackenbury history scholarship to study at Balliol College, Oxford. Tout was part of a gifted generation at Balliol, which included the future historians Charles Harding Firth, R. L. Poole, J.H. Round, Sidney Lee, Richard Lodge, William Ashley, Charles Edwyn Vaughan, and Arnold Toynbee. As a student, he was greatly influenced by William Stubbs, the Regius professor of modern history, and decided to specialise in English medieval history. In 1877, Tout was only student of his year to be awarded a first in modern history; this was followed by second class honours in literae humaniores in 1879. Following graduation, he tutored at Oxford.

In 1881, Tout was appointed professor of modern history and English literature at St David's College, Lampeter, Cardiganshire. He played a major role in the College's academic and social life, showing some of the administrative skills later used to great effect at Manchester. Although Tout did not publish a major academic monograph during this period, he contributed numerous articles to the Dictionary of English History, and the Dictionary of National Biography. Many of the earlier DNB articles were of Welsh historical figures, and he developed an expert knowledge of Welsh medieval society, particularly the Marcher lordships. He also collaborated with the Oxford historian, Frederick York Powell, on a three volume textbook on English history. He was to write many school textbooks and general histories, including Short analysis of English history (1891), The Empire and the Papacy, 918-1273 (1897), and a volume for Longman’s historical series for schools, The history of England from the accession of Henry III to the death of Edward III 1216-1377 (1905). These textbooks were an important source of income and influence to Tout.

Tout was appointed professor of modern history at Owens College, Manchester in 1890, in succession to A. W. Ward (among the unsuccessful candidates for this chair were John Marriott, W. A. Shaw and his future colleague, James Tait). He remained at Manchester for the rest of his professional life (he was an unsuccessful applicant for the chair of history at Glasgow in 1894). In 1902, he became professor of medieval and modern history, and in 1920, professor of history and director of Advanced Studies, before retiring in 1925.

Tout was a major figure in the life of Owens (which became the University of Manchester in 1903); he was active on numerous committees, and played an influential role in developing the University library and establishing Manchester University Press. He helped set up the Faculties of Theology and Commerce, when the University was established in 1903. He was also involved in the Manchester University Settlement, and did much improve opportunities for female staff and students (the College's first female member of academic staff, Alice Cooke, was a historian).

Tout developed innovative methods of teaching and research at Manchester, to the extent that a distinctive "Manchester school of history" emerged under his leadership. He was an effective recruiter of academic staff; the department included James Tait, George Unwin, Ramsay Muir, A.G. Little, and Tout nurtured young talents such as Maurice Powicke, V. H. Galbraith, J. Goronwy Edwards and Mark Hovell. The department was characterised by rigorous training in historical method for undergraduates, and active promotion of postgraduate study (Tout played a significant role in the introduction of the Ph.D. at Manchester in 1918). The undergraduate course included a special subject as standard, and from 1907 an undergraduate dissertation. Tout actively promoted the study of primary sources by his students, and appointed A. G. Little as lecturer in palaeography to help achieve this. Tout also organized field trips to historical sites, and encouraged the students' Historical Society. By the time of his retirement, the department was arguably the most important in Britain.

As a historian, Tout's was associated with the development of a new specialism, administrative history. Tout saw this as both a continuation of and a challenge to the Victorian constitutional history epitomised by Stubbs, with its emphasis on Parliament and the personal nature of monarchy. Instead, Tout emphasised the role of a nascent bureaucracy, which brought routine and regularity to medieval government. Fostered in part by the aristocracy, particularly during the reign of Edward II, royal officials and the activities which they undertook became increasingly autonomous and detached from the personal oversight of the monarch, gradually eroding the discretionary powers of the Crown. Overall, Tout maintained that the foundations of a 'modern' state bureaucracy had been laid in this period: "(B)efore the beginning of the fourteenth century...the government of England was largely in the hands of a body something like the permanent civil service of the modern state." ['Literature and learning in the English civil service in the fourteenth century' Speculum 4.4. Oct 1929.]

Tout's early researches on the subject were presented in The place of the reign of Edward II in English history (1914), based on his Ford's lectures of the previous year, and were set out systematically in the six volume Chapters in the administrative history of medieval England (1920-1931), which dominated the field for years to come. Tout was much influenced by French historians such as Eugène Déprez, Paul Viollet and Charles Langlois in his understanding of administrative history as a distinctive genre of explanation, particularly Déprez's Études de la diplomatique anglaise (1908). Tout stressed the similarities between medieval English and French institutions in France and England, their relations in the Middle Ages and now (1922), based on lectures delivered at the University of Rennes in 1921.

Tout also authored a number of influential articles outlining his innovative approach to the teaching and research of history, particularly, 'Schools of History' (The University Review 1906), 'Outlines versus periods' (The University Review 1907), 'An historical laboratory' (The Standard 3 Jan 1910), 'The present state of medieval studies in Great Britain' (Proceedings of the British Academy1913-14 vol vi), and 'National and international co-operation in historical scholarship' (THRS 1927 4th series pp.1-19).

Tout contributed numerous articles and reviews to the leading history journals, particularly the English Historical Review, some of which were published posthumously as The collected papers of Thomas Frederick Tout (3 volumes, 1932-1934). He was also active in the professional associations of the humanities. Tout was president of the Royal Historical Society from 1926-1929, a fellow of the British Academy and responsible for its medieval publications, as well as being an active member of the International Congress of Historical Studies, serving twice as president of its medieval section. His latter days were spent helping establish the Institute of Historical Research.

In 1895 Tout married Mary Johnstone of Stockport, and they had three surviving children. Mary Tout shared her husband's interest in public work and the social life of the University. Mary's sister, Hilda Johnstone, was also a distinguished historian, and collaborated with Tout on State trials of the reign of Edward the First (London 1906). Tout retired in 1925, and moved to Hampstead, London. He died in London in 1929.


Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

There have been two accessions; the major part of the collection was donated to the University of Manchester Library in 1972 by the Tout family; the second accession was donated by Mr Tom Sharp in 1998.

The material described in this catalogue was part of the 1972 donation.

Archivist's Note

This catalogue is an edited version of one produced by Dr Peter Slee in the 1980s. The current version has been reformatted for on-line delivery, but only minor editing of content has been undertaken, mostly of ambiguous abbreviations in the text. In the vast majority of cases, the content of the description has not been checked against the originals due to limited resources. No guarantee can therefore be given that content is accurate in all cases. Content description is further limited to single words or phrases which identify the most important subject matter, so descriptions are not necessarily comprehensive. It should also be noted that this catalogue provides descriptions of only a proportion of the Tout papers; for example, Tout's notebooks and research notes, and family papers remain uncatalogued, and it is likely that these papers include further correspondence.

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.

Related Material

UML also holds the papers of Tout's colleague and fellow medievalist, James Tait (TAI), as well those of Maurice Powicke (FMP), Mark Hovell, (HOV), Mary Bateson (MBP) and George Unwin, (UNW).

The location of papers of historians who were Tout's contemporaries and may be represented in this collection can be traced in the Historical Manuscripts Commission, Papers of British Antiquaries and Historians (London, 2003).

Tout's appointment to the chair in 1890 is covered in the Owens College Archive (OCA/19/77). The University of Manchester Vice Chancellor's archive has a file on a copyright action in which Tout was involved concerning a posthumous work by John Strachan, An introduction to early Welsh(1909) (VCA/7/77). Records of the University of Manchester Senate and Faculty of Arts will also have information on the department of history in Tout's time.


No complete biography exists for Tout. See the obituaries by James Tait in E.H.R. 45 (1930), 78-85 and by Maurice Powicke in Proceedings of the British Academy XV, 491-518.

Peter Slee, Learning and a liberal education: the study of modern history in the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester (Manchester 1988), has an account of the 'Manchester History School' during Tout's 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) has a useful account of Tout's conception of administrative history.

Personal Names

Geographical Names