Thomas Arnold: letter to William Otter re examinations at the University of London

Scope and Content

Regarding the degree courses and examinations at the University of London. Arnold was worried that arts degrees would be awarded without any examination in (Christian) sacred literature. The recipient was William Otter, Bishop of Chichester. In this long and closely-argued letter, Arnold writes that he wholly agrees that Catholic, Unitarian and other dissenting students should be part of the student body. He fears though when it comes to examinations, differing interpretations of scripture could result in a dissenter being marked down by an Anglican examiner for his sincerely-held religious views. He sees a way out of this, quoting the German experience. Arnold's acceptance of a fellowship at London seems to have been based on an understanding that the non-sectarian principles of the original institution would be adhered to, but that Christianity would be an essential part of the examinations for an arts degree. This letter to William Otter seems to be part of a campaign to persuade another senior member of the University to be on his side of the argument. As he was writing to an Anglican bishop, he must have assumed that Otter would support him.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Arnold was famed as a reforming headmaster of Rugby School, and a hero of the nineteenth-century British public school movement. He did not limit his interests to schools, and he was busy on a History of Rome (left uncompleted at his death), as well as accepting the offer of a position at London University. He was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford in 1841.

Access Information

Open for research although at least 24 hours advance notice should be given.

Acquisition Information

Bought from Christopher Edwards, Antiquarian Books.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued (with transcript) on the Library's archive catalogue,