Maurice Powicke papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

A small collection of the papers of the historian Sir Maurice Powicke, who was professor of medieval history at Manchester from 1919-1928.

There is a small body of letters to Powicke (FMP/1), mainly from former students, discussing their post-university careers. Letters from a German visiting student, Willi Radczun (FMP/1/5-7), include some interesting comments on the workings of the seminar system at the University of Berlin. All the letters date from the period when Powicke was a professor at Manchester, and many of the letters were sent in connection with the distribution of the History Department's newsletter, which Powicke edited at this time. The papers a include a collection of these newsletters (FMP/3) dating from 1925-1938 [1926 issue not present]. There is also a manuscript copy of Powicke's article on"Master Simon the Norman" which was donated by Jeanne Stones in 1977, and then incorporated into this collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

[Frederick] Maurice Powicke was born in Northumberland, and grew up in Stockport, Cheshire. He was the son of a Congregationalist minister, who was also a historian of the Puritan movement.

In 1896, Powicke entered Owens College to study history. His teachers included T.F. Tout and James Tait, both important influences in his development as a historian. He took first class honours in 1899, and received a M.A. in 1902. On completing his undergraduate degree, Powicke went with a Brackenbury scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, following in the footsteps of Tait and Tout. He took degrees in literae humaniores in 1902, and modern history in 1903. He was then elected to a Langton fellowship at the University of Manchester, during which time he undertook research on Furness Abbey. From 1905-6, he was an assistant lecturer in history at the University of Liverpool, and held the same position at Manchester from 1906-8. In 1908 he was elected to a prize fellowship at Merton College, Oxford, and in 1909 he was elected professor of modern history at Queen's University, Belfast. In 1919 he returned to Manchester as professor of medieval history in succession to Tait. In 1928, he became Regius professor of modern history at the University of Oxford, retiring from this post in 1947. Powicke played an important role in building up Oxford's reputation as a centre for historical research, giving particular emphasis to the education of post-graduate students.

Powicke specialised in medieval political history, particularly of the thirteenth century aristocracy, but he also made original contributions in religious and intellectual history. Significant publications included The loss of Normandy (1913), Stephen Langton (1928), King Henry III and the Lord Edward (1947), and The Thirteenth Century (1953), a volume in the Oxford History of England. He also co-wrote a new edition of Hasting Rashdall's Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (3 vols. 1936), producing the sections on continental universities. Powicke wrote more popular works including Bismarck and the origin of the German Empire (1914) and Christian life in the Middle Ages (1926). He was frequent contributor to the English Historical Review.

Powicke was elected president of the Royal Historical Society in 1933, and did much to enhance its publishing programme. He was Ford's lecturer at Oxford in 1926/7, and was elected F.B.A in 1927. He was knighted in 1946. Powicke married Susan Lindsay (d.1965) in 1909, who was the sister of the philosopher A.D. Lindsay; they had three children.

Arrangement

Arranged into three series:

  • FMP/1 - correspondence;
  • FMP/2 - manuscript writings;
  • FMP/3 - University of Manchester department of history newsletters.

FMP/1 arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

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 University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The custodial history of the collection is not known; it is assumed that Professor Powicke gave most of these papers to the Library some time after his departure from Manchester in 1928. The manuscript of "Master Simon the Norman" was donated to the Library by Mrs Jeanne Stones, a former pupil of Powicke, in 1977.

Related Material

No other instances of extant Powicke papers are known to exist. R W Southern's obituary in Proceedings of the British Academy mentions an autobiographical manuscript then in the possession of Dr Alys Gregory; the current location of this item is not known. A small number of Powicke's letters to T F Tout (TFT/1/962/1-69) and James Tait (TAI/1/174/1-17 ) are in the possession of JRUL.

Bibliography

Informative biographical sources for Powicke include Richard Southern's obituary in Proceedings of the British Academy vol. 50, 1964, pp.275-304, and William Pantin's obituary in English Historical Review no.314, Jan 1965, pp.1-9. These have been used in the compilation of the biographical note for this collection.

Geographical Names