John Lingard: Correspondence and papers

Scope and Content

The collection includes correspondence with several of Lingard's colleagues from Douai and Ushaw, Roman Catholic Vicars-Apostolic (bishops), religious historians, antiquaries, archivists, publishers and editors, both British and French. The correspondence includes that of Charles Butler, the Catholic layman and advocate of emancipation, including Lingard's letters, which were returned to him by Butler's daughter after the death of her father in 1842. There are also twenty-five letters between third parties and a small selection of miscellaneous papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Lingard (1771-1851), Roman Catholic priest and historian, was a leading figure in the progress of Catholic emancipation during the nineteenth century. He was one of the last students to be educated at the English College at Douai, and after escaping from the continent during the French revolutionary troubles in 1793, he returned to England. He was associated with the community from Douai that was established at Crook Hall, and later at Ushaw College, County Durham, and for many years was the Professor of Natural and Moral Philosophy. After 1811 he settled at Hornby, Lancashire, where he was a missionary priest.

Lingard's first major literary work was The antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church, published in 1806, and revised and expanded in 1845. His History of 1688 was published in eight volumes between 1819 and 1830, and was noteworthy for its scrupulous reliance on original manuscripts, and for the generally even-handed treatment of subjects about which Catholics and Protestants were likely to disagree. It went through five editions in Lingard's lifetime, each of which was revised and expanded in the light of new discoveries. Such was Lingard's reputation as a result of the History that on his second visit to Rome in 1825-1826 there is strong evidence that he was created a cardinal in petto by Pope Leo XII. Pope Pius VII had earlier, in 1821, conferred on him the 'triple academic laurel' of doctorates in divinity and canon and civil law. Lingard also published many works of a controversial nature, as well as several catechisms and versions of and commentaries on religious texts, mostly in the form of pamphlets or periodical articles.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Bernard Quaritch Ltd, 1996.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the collection is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Custodial History

The papers passed after Lingard's death to his friend and first biographer, Mark Tierney. They were held in private hands, along with Tierney's papers (MS.Add.9419), until they were summarily catalogued and prepared for sale in 1917, although the sale did not take place at this time.


For further information about John Lingard see Mark Tierney's brief memoir of Lingard (1854); Martin Maile and Edwin Bonney, Life and letters of John Lingard (London, 1911); J. Fletcher, Lingard (1925); and Donald Shea, The English Ranke: John Lingard (1966).