The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and one of the oldest in Europe. It is said to have been founded around 1167, by English masters and students expelled from the University of Paris, in the course of the quarrel between Henry II of England and Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (then in exile in France). Troubles in 1209 between King John and the Church led to a royal crackdown on the Oxford masters and clerks. A group of exiled Oxonians are said to have established themselves in the nearby town of Cambridge, creating the nucleus of what would soon become Cambridge University, the ancient and perennial rival of Oxford.
Oxford was among the earliest and most prominent of the Scholastic universities of Europe. Robert Grosseteste introduced the newly-recovered works of Aristotle into Oxford in the 1230s, and went on to produce a famous school of Franciscan Scholastics that included Roger Bacon, John Peckham, John Duns Scotus, William of Ockham and Richard of Middleton.
When Popes started handing out charters granting fledgling universities the privileges of a Studium generale, Oxford (alongside other proud old schools like Paris and Bologna) refused to acquire one, believing their reputation and status sufficient and indisputable. By the time it realized the privileges were worth having and stooped to apply for one, the pope refused - on the grounds that Oxford was implicated by its association with John Wycliffe and the Lollards. As a result, Oxford never received a papal charter, one of the only two old European universities (the other was Padua); to have subsisted without one, a Studium generale by custom only
Oxford narrowly survived the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539, by subjecting itself to royal reorganization. During the Henrican reforms, most of the old colleges of Oxford were shut down or broken up, the traditional Scholastic curriculum was purged in favor a more humanistic one, and five "regius professorships" were created: in Greek, Hebrew, Divinity, Civil Law and Medicine. The Elizabethan Act of Incorporation (13 Elizabeth c.29) in 1571 gave Oxford its first formal charter, recasting it effectively as a seminary for the (Anglican/Episcopalian) Church of England.
Religious tests were introduced in 1589. Students residing in a college were required to officially matriculate in the central university, and affix their names to a subscription book confirming the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican faith (compiled by the Synod of London in 1562). This "matriculation test" was unique to Oxford (Cambridge did not require it), thus effectively barring any Non-Conformist Protestants, Catholics and Jews, from entering the university. Oxford also had a "degree test", where they in order to receive their B.A. degree, students had to prove their knowledge and confirm the validity of the 39 articles, the Book of Common Prayer and swear an oath to the supremacy of the King (Cambridge had the "degree test", but not so detailed; it was sufficient for the candidate to declare he was a member of the Church of England). Oxford maintained the religious matriculation and degree tests until 1854.
In 1606, James I allowed Oxford to send a representative to Parliament. With the rise in popularity of Calvinist-inspired Puritanism in the 17th C., Cambridge's looser entry requirements allowed it to flirt with the new mood and soon acquired a reputation as a breeder of Puritans and Low Church "enthusiasm". However, Oxford maintained itself steadfastly traditional, the bastion of "High Church" Anglicanism, upholders of traditional ecclesiastical institutions, devoted to the central notion of the union of church and state, and firmly tied to the Stuart monarchy. Thus it is unsurprising that during the English Civil Wars of the 1640s, King Charles I made Oxford his political and military headquarters. Oxford's fortunes rose and fell with the Stuarts. After the 1688 Glorious Revolution, Oxford's devotion to the Stuarts made it a Jacobite hotbed, never quite finding a way to reconcile itself with the Williamite and Hanoverian monarchies.
The 1571 Elizabethan constitution was overhauled by the "Laudian statutes", assembled under the supervision of William Laud (Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of Oxford), that went officially into force on June 12, 1636. The Laudian statutes would remain the effective constitution of Oxford University until the mid-19th C. The statutes were very detailed, regulating the relationship between the central university and the constituent colleges, all the way down down to curriculum, examinations and student life.
In theory, the government of the university was the Convocation, the notional assembly of all the masters and doctors, resident and non-resident, who maintained their names on the books of one of the constituent colleges. It served something like a "legislature" for the university (e.g. the Convocation elected the Chancellor, the two MPs, etc.) However, in practice, power was vested in the so-called "Hebdomadal Meeting", a smaller oligarchic council which alone had the power to initiate changes to be voted by the Convocation. The Hebdomadal council was composed of the heads of Colleges and Halls plus the two "Proctors" of the university (proctors were notional representatives of the rest of the university community). The figurehead of the university was the Chancellor, who in turn appointed a Vice-Chancellor from among the heads of the Colleges. The Vice-Chancellor customarily had a four-year term and did most of the actual presiding in university meetings.
Up until 1854, Oxford was composed of 19 "Colleges" (only a handful of which were founded after the Reformation) and five "Halls". A College was essentially a residential house for students. Each college had a stable of thirty or so 'fellows' who acted as tutors and lecturers for the undergraduates. In principle, fellows were recent graduates who had received their B.A. but continued residing at the college and were paid a small emolument to 'mentor' undergraduates. By statute, the fellows of a college were expected to be ordained into the Anglican priesthood after seven years. However, a fellow who took up the additional task of lecturing could prolong his fellowship without ordination. However, a fellow was still required to remain unmarried, and any fellow who married would promptly forfeit his fellowship (a codicil that was only changed in 1882.)
The head of a College had a variety of names ("Master", "President", "Provost", "Warden", etc.) and was elected by the fellows of his college, with no involvement by the rest of the university. His primary obligation was administrative and spiritual supervision (thus heads were almost always clerics), but usually did not get involved in educational matters, leaving that to the fellows.
The difference between a College and a Hall was that a Hall did not offer fellowships or scholarships, and the head of the Hall (almost invariably known as the "Principal") was appointed by the Chancellor of the University. Lack of fellows meant that the Principal of the Hall had to take on more of the educational functions.
University College (f.1249), Balliol College (f.1263), Merton College (f.1264) have all set out claims to be the oldest still-existing Oxford colleges. Oriel College (1326) is the oldest to be founded by a royal and for a time enjoyed a reputation as the most liberal and intellectually accomplished, the home of the "Noetics" of the19th Century (Copleston, Whately, etc.). New College (1379) is often credited for pioneering the quintessentially Oxonian system of education, notably the tutorial system. Christ Church College (1525) is traditionally considered the most prominently aristocratic and conservatively High Church, while St. John's (1555), founded by merchant fortunes, was reputedly the richest. Other old colleges include Exeter (1314), Queen's (1341), Lincoln (1427), Magdalen (1458), Brasenose (1509), and Pembroke (1624). Hertford College (formerly Hart Hall) was notable as a collection of point of Renaissance humanists. Among the colleges designed only for graduates is the prestigious All Souls College (f.1438) and the more modern economics-oriented Nuffield College (f.1937).
Since Scholastic times, the traditional Oxford curriculum for a Bachelor of Arts encompassed the classical "seven liberal arts" - the the 'interpretive' trivium (grammar, rhetoric and logic) and the 'factual' quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music). Undergraduate degrees ("Bachelor of Arts") were obtained after an oral Latin disputation, focused on language skills and mastery of logic, and demonstrated familiarity with religious knowledge (with focus on the Thirty-nine Articles). The 1638 Laudian statutes replaced the Latin disputation with a final oral examination on the set of subjects that were required to be taught by statute. The course of studies set out by statutes were: in the first year, grammar and rhetoric (in a wide humanistic sense), second year, logic and moral philosophy, third & fourth: logic, moral philosophy, geometry and Greek.
Although Oxford had hosted William Petty and Thomas Hobbes in the mid-17th C., Oxford's Jacobitism ensured it remain isolated and insular and missed out on much of the "Scientific Revolution" that raged nearby at Cambridge. The 18th Century is sometimes considered the "academic dark ages" of England, and Oxford in particular. Students barely attended lectures, and the oral examination deprecated into routines with little actual testing of student's knowledge. Although Elizabethan statutes (13 Elizabeth c.29) fined students for non-attendance of lectures, this was largely ignored and unenforced.
During the 18th C., while the Scottish academies had embraced the Enlightenment and a curriculum in modern disciplines, such as moral philosophy and natural sciences Oxford labored under the weight of its Medieval Scholastic heritage. Attempts to modernize the curriculum at Oxford had largely failed - the Whyte Professor of Moral Philosophy (est. 1631) had long since ceased lecturing and was so entirely forgotten, the title stopped being listed on university calendars. The Regius Professor of Modern History (est. 1724) fared only a little better. For the most part, in the 18th C., Oxford was regarded little more than a training ground for Anglican clerics, dominated by ultra-Tory High Church views, and a finishing school for gentlemen, with an archaic curriculum dominated by Greek and Latin Classics, and degrees which were hardly earned. Edward Gibbon famously mocked 18th C. Oxford as a sleeping place for dons.
Things began to change at the turn of the century, with the introduction of competitive "honours" examinations in 1800-09 and an overhaul of the curriculum with more exacting educational standards, albeit still dedicated to the classicsal liberal arts. The locomotive was Oriel College, initially under the leadership of John Eveleigh (provost of Oriel from 1789 to 1814), and then Edward Copleston (provost of Oriel from 1814 to 1827). Eveleigh had introduced competitive examinations and a new policy of selecting students for intellectual potential rather than family connections, turning Oriel arguably into the most meritocratic college at Oxford in the early 19th C. As a result, Oriel was quickly blessed with a generation of talented young men, bent on intellectual achievement (or over-achievement, by the standards of the day). Copleston mentored a generation of fellows and students at Oriel known as the "Noetics" (Greek for "reasoners"), that flourished in the 1810s and 1820s, which included Richard Whately, John Davison, Edward Hawkins, Thomas J. Arnold, J. Blanco White, Baden Powell, Renn Dickson Hampden, and others. Oriel Noetics acquired (and cultivated) a reputation as hyper-intellectuals, the leading lights of the university. They also constituted the Oxford branch of the "Broad Church" movement, promoting liberal theology and freedom of enquiry, which often stood in stark contrast to the stuffy conservative "High Church" Tory outlook that dominated the rest of the university at the time.
Political economy was not absent in this transformation. The Regius Professor of Modern History (f.1724) had always touched on political and economic topics. This became more pronounced under George Beeke, a fellow of Oriel and Professor of Modern History at Oxford from 1801 to 1813. Beeke famously produced an early attempt to measure national income, in an effort to estimate the revenues of the Pitt income tax. His contemporary, Edward Tatham, the Rector of Lincoln College, had also been involved in public finance matters of the Pitt ministry - crediting himself (without modesty) as the author of the property tax of the late 1790s, and continued to be an occasional commentator on the bullion debate. Edward Copleston encouraged inquiry and discussion on political economy in the Oriel common room, and dabbled in the field himself, publishing tracts on the bullion controversy and the Poor Laws.
In 1808-10, a series of articles appeared in the Edinburgh Review, the latter-day pulpit of the Scottish Enlightenment, deriding the archaic Scholastic curriculum of Oxford, and the centrality given to Aristotlean logic and Christian theology, at the expense of modern subjects like mathematics, science, philosophy and economics. Copleston rose to the occasion, and authored a Reply to the Calumnies (1810), effectively the "Noetic manifesto", defending the Oxonian curriculum. While acknowledging the importance of economics to general education of the statesmen the English universities turned out, Copleston nonetheless saw economics merely as a science about a "means to an end", and insisted on the importance of classical and religious learning to provide the normative basis, the "value of the end".
Copleston's program was taken up by his disciple Richard Whately, who led the Oriel Noetics through the 1820s. In his famous textbook, Elements of Logic (1826), Whately famously rescued logic from its dilapidated state in the Scholastic curriculum, and recast it as a modern science of inquiry, setting the field on the road to formalization in the 1830s. Another Noetic, Richard Hampden, revived the ancient forgotten professorship of Moral Philosophy in 1831.
Economics enters Oxford
On May 11, 1825, Oxford accepted an offer by Henry Drummond to endow a Chair in Political Economy. The offer was viewed suspiciously by the conservative High Church dons of Oxford. Not only were they wary of this new secular science, many believing it incompatible with Christian ethics and teaching, they were a little suspicious of Henry Drummond himself. Although a former student, Drummond had never taken an Oxford degree and had since become the leader of a rather extreme "Low Church" evangelical sect in Albury Park. Nonetheless, the Oriel Noetics, led by Whately, urged acceptance. Political economy, they argued, was rapidly becoming indispensable field for statesmen. Oxford purported to educate the future leaders of Britain, and if Oxford did not teach them economics, they would simply pick it up from the London gutters - from the irreligious Ricardians and Radical Utilitarians, who were staking the field as their own exclusive province, and infusing it with their profane ethics and vulgar principles. If Christian thought and ethics are to have any influence on the new science, then economics must be brought inside the cloister, where it can be taught "properly". Moreover, Cambridge already had a lecturer in political economy - George Pryme, since 1816 - surely Oxford should have one too? The Oxford dons held their nose and approved it.
In the original terms, the Drummond chair in Political Economy would receive annual stipend of £100 funded by Henry Drummond from his Albury estate. Candidates must have an advanced Oxford degree (at least an M.A. or a Bachelor of Law), and were to be elected by the Convocation of all masters. The Drummond professor would serve for a fixed term of five years, and could not be re-elected unless a two year interval had passed (this restriction was lifted in December 1867 for Bonamy Price). The professor was required to deliver nine lectures per academic year (October-July) and publish at least one of them. Finally, a lecture must have at least three attendees in order to count.
Whately was instrumental in securing the appointment of his own former pupil and friend, Nassau William Senior, as the first Drummond Professor of Political Economy in June, 1825. However, Senior took over a year to prepare, and was only ready to deliver his first lectures in December 1826. Although they were rather poorly attended, Senior soldiered on. Senior published many of his lectures, staking out the theoretical and policy positions of what can be called the "Oxford-Dublin School", sometimes regarded as a branch of Classical economics, but more properly as a proto-marginalist challenge to it. After Senior's five year-term ended in 1830, Whately took over the Drummond Professorship himself - but stayed for only a year before accepting a position as the new Archbishop of Dublin in late 1831 (he went on to establish the Whately chair at Trinity College Dublin in 1832, on similar terms as the Drummond chair, which would continue the theoretical line begun at Oxford).
Whately's departure in late 1831 led to the appointment of William Forster Lloyd to the Drummond chair at Oxford. Although himself a proto-marginalist, Lloyd was not quite of the school of Whately-Senior - indeed quite the opposite. W.F. Lloyd was the younger brother of the powerful Charles Lloyd, Bishop of Oxford and Regius professor of Divinity. Although Charles Lloyd had died in 1829, during his lifetime Lloyd's Christ Church had been a keen competitor of Copleston's Oriel for the soul of Oxford. The transition in the Drummond professorship from Richard Whately to W.F. Lloyd in 1831 mirrored a decisive transition away from the reformist 'Broad Church' liberalism of the Oriel Noetics towards the reactionary High Church conservatism championed by Christ Church and Lloyd.
The transition really began when Charles Lloyd beat out Edward Copleston in the competition for the Bishopric of Oxford in 1827 (Copleston got the Bishopric of Llandalf - a virtual sentence of exile). At the time, the conservative High Church community at Oxford was growing alarmed at the fraying of the traditional marriage between Church and State in an increasingly liberal England. Although the conservative wing of the Tory Party, under the Duke of Wellington and his lieutenant Sir Robert Peel (a protege of Lloyd), had come to power in early 1828, they seemed incapable of reversing the trend. Indeed, Wellington and Peel presided over the repeal of the test and corporation acts in 1828, and, in early 1829, passed the Catholic emancipation act. The Oxford community howled in protest and forced Sir Robert Peel, Oxford's long-standing Tory MP, to resign. Discontent took a more dramatic turn in 1831, when N.W. Senior (then in London) authored a report for the new Whig government effectively recommending the disestablishment of the (Anglican) Church of Ireland. Blamed by association with Senior, Whately found the atmosphere in Oxford increasingly hostile, and so did not have to think twice when the Dublin preferment came up.
In the aftermath of Whately's departure, the remaining Noetics at Oxford were besieged. Hampden had assumed the Whyte professorship of moral philosophy in 1831, and pushed the Noetic envelope further in his Observations on Religious Dissent 1834, advocating the abolition of religious tests and allow the admission of Dissenters into Oxford University (a side-effect of the 1834 Cambridge petition to Parliament).. Hampden's pamphlet served as a lightning rod to send the High Churchmen into a frenzy. The younger men of Oriel - notably John Keble, John Henry Newman, Richard H. Froude, Edward Pusey, and others - groomed by the old Noetics but subsequently lulled by Lloyd, revolted against their elders. They were appalled by what they perceived as the open collaboration between the Noetics and the Whig government in dismantling the institutions of the Anglican Church, and the apparent willingness of the rest of the clergy to simply go along with it.
This group of youngsters - known later as the "Oxford Movement" or simply "the Tractarians" - blamed not the Whigs, nor parliament, nor the general public, but rather placed the blame squarely on the clergy themselves. The "attack" on the Church of England was not external, but internal. In their estimation, the clergy had grown so used to being part of the State, that they had practically forgotten they were part of the Church. The clergy did not vigorously defend their institutions and traditions, partly because were ignorant of them or did not appreciate their history and importance, and partly because they had reconciled themselves to subservience to the will of the State. The "confessional sate", the idea that parliament served effectively as the ruling synod of the Church of England, might have worked well enough in the long decades of Tory rule, but parliament was now in the hands of hostile Whigs, and included non-Anglican Dissenters and Catholics as MPs. In short, secularizers and unbelievers were in charge of the church. The Anglican church needs a new, separate identity, or more precisely - the Tractarians argued - to recover its old identity as a separate institution with its own distinct history, functions and social role.
Keble, Newman, Froude, Pusey et al. consequently decided to correct that. Starting in 1833, the group began to put out a series of pamphlets known as the Tracts of the Times. Most of these were innocuous historical tracts, more interested in educating about church history than in engaging in abstract theological polemics. Their research into the history of the church morphed into a zeal for the revival of traditional High Anglicanism of the Caroline divines and a Romantic-tinged fascination with Medievalism. The Tractarians urged a revival of old rituals and liturgies, bringing back vestments, candles and incense, to add color and inspire the imagination, and re-center church service on the holy communion and its mystery. The parish church should be re-cast not only as a spiritual center of the community, but also a social institution. The parish priest should present himself as a community leader, not a state official, and assume the role of a countervailing force, rather than a conduit, of harsh state policies of the Whig era (like the Poor Laws)
The Tractarians dominated intellectual life at Oxford in the 1830s and early 1840s. The hyper-conservative, ultra-High Church views espoused by the Tractarians not only shocked their more liberal elders - like Hampden and Baden Powell, who were still at Oxford - it was also at odds with the general sentiment outside of Oxford. While their call for preserving the centrality of the Church of England institutions in English public life found some resonance, their emphasis on its traditional features, and calls for a return to older rituals and liturgies in the Church of England found less appreciation and provoked replies accusing them of trying to reintroduce relics of "Romanism" into a solidly Protestant church. The Tractarians did not disavow the connection, and indeed emphasized the continuity between the Medieval Catholic church in England and the post-Reformation Church of England, seeing an unbroken line of apostolic succession, and a continuation of the sacraments.
The Tractarian conflict with the Noetics entered into high phase in 1836 with the vacancy of the powerful Regius Professorship of Divinity. The Noetics proposed Renn Dickson Hampden, then in moral philosophy, but the Tractarians pushed for Edward Pusey or Keble or Newman or anybody else but Hampden. They hit the pamphlets, with accusations that in his 1832 Bampton lectures (on the history of the Scholastics), Hampden had postulated some irreligious ideas, insinuating that morals and theology had no connection with scriptural revelations. This was a caricature of Hampden's position - Hampden merely sought to show that the Scholastic arguments were historically conditioned, influenced by contemporary events. In many ways it was orthodox Protestantism, suggesting the Scholastics were not authoritative over scripture, but it was precisely this that irritated the Tractarians, who were trying to revive the authority of the Patristic Fathers of the church. The High Churchmen only heard that Hampden believed things like the Nicene creed or the doctrine of the Trinity might be mistaken, and hurriedly declared him unfit for the position. Nonetheless, the Whig government (pushed by Whately and Copleston) went ahead and appointed Hampden. It was met by a storm of protest in the Oxford community. The Tractarians and High Churchmen launched a campaign to retract the appointment, they composed petitions to the King, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and urged other dioceses to join in the push. When they seemed to make no headway with the government, the Tractarians went so far as to have the Convocation of Oxford pass a statute declaring the university had no confidence in Hampden, removing him from the boards selecting preachers and reviewing sermons, and releasing students of theology from the obligation to attend his lectures. Although the statute was later declared illegal, it infuriated the Whig PM Viscount Melbourne, who was determined to hold his ground against pretensions of the "rebels of Oxford" to seize control of appointments. Hampden appointment to Divinity was confirmed, but in an act of mollification William Sewell, a sympathizer of the Tractarians, became the new Whyte professor of moral philosophy.
William F. Lloyd's tenure in the Drummond Chair came to an end in 1837, and the search for his successor began at the height of the Tractarian movement. Sewell persuaded the theologian and future Christian Socialist, Frederick Denison Maurice to stand for the chair, and the Tractarians stood behind him. The Noetic candidate, Herman Merivale, a Whig and former Whately student at Oriel, threw his hat into the ring, but stood little chance. Maurice's candidacy, favored by the High Churchmen, seemed a sure thing but then Maurice made some remarks on infant baptism that instantly turned the Tractarians against him. With Maurice's candidacy lost, Herman Merivale (whose political Whig views were deplored, but at least had never made any religious comments of any kind) slipped into the Drummond chair by default. Merivale's tenure ended in 1841, and Senior himself decided to submit his candidacy. But the High Churchmen were still riding high, and the chair went to a lawyer, Travis Twiss, instead.
The Tractarians finally crossed the line with their (in)famous "Tract No.90", authored by Newman in 1841 - effectively concluding that Anglicanism and Catholicism were essentially the same thing, that the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican faith were compatible with Roman Catholic theology. Or more precisely, in Newman's meticulously razor-thin difference, the Articles were ant-Roman, but not anti-Catholic. It garnered a vociferous response - by Whately among others. William Sewell broke with the Tractarians, Richard Bagot (Bishop of Oxford) suppressed further publication of the Tracts. Despite the scandal of Tract No. 90, the leaders of the Tractarian movement lingered on at Oxford, with significant personal influence, for a few years more.
But times were about to change. The Tractarians lost the battle for the Professorship of Poetry, which had been vacated by Keble in 1841. Their favored candidate, Isaac Williams, was soundly defeated, partly because of Pusey's own supportive circular letter had inadvertently identified some irregular religious opinions. Emboldened by this victory, the Hebdomodal Council decided to follow it up in 1842 by vacating the 1836 statute against Hampden. In May 1843, Pusey was accused of delivering a sermon on the Eucharist contrary to Anglican doctrine, after a brief secretive inquiry, found guilty and barred from preaching at Oxford for two years. The final straw was the publication of the Ideal of the Christian Church by William G. Ward, a disciple of the Tractarians, practically condemning the Anglican Church as faithless compared to Catholicism. The Oxford authorities launched an inquiry into Ward's book. In February 1845, at the Oxford Convocation, Ward's book was condemned and Ward stripped of his degrees. A third measure, that would have empowered the Vice-Chancellor to launch an inquisition into the orthodoxy of any university member at any time, was vetoed by the Proctors. But it was only a temporary stay until the end of the Proctors' term of a year. In the aftermath, the Tractarian movement began to crumble. A stream of resignations followed in the course of 1845, as Tractarians one by one gave up their posts and future careers. Several the Tractarians (notably starting with John Henry Newman in late 1845) formally converted to Catholicism proper. The Oxford Movement did not end, but it would have to continue outside of Oxford.
The discrediting of the Tractarians also weakened the High Church hold on Oxford after 1845. After fifteen years, the old Noetic Liberals were finally back on top. In 1847, Nassau William Senior had few difficulties being elected again to the Drummond Chair in economics. He would serve his second term until 1852. But greater changes were about the befall Oxford.
Debate over curriculum continued in the meantime. In the 1830s, the old battle was resumed in the Edinburgh Review, this time between the Scottish philosopher Sir William Hamilton, a professor civil history at Edinburgh, and Vaughan Thomas, an Oriel graduate. This time, the debate was not on the content of the curriculum as much as its implementation. Hamilton derided the tutorial format and argued in favor of lectures, blaming the fragmentary organization and excessive power of Oxford colleges. He also demanded that the classics be approached "philosophically", rather than "philologically".
Whig-Liberal prime minister Lord John Russell took the matter in hand with the appointment of a 1850 Royal Commission to inquire into the state of the university. It consisted of seven commissioners, all respectable Oxonians, but many of them also liberals and reformers, connected with the old Oriel Noetics. This included the chair, Dr. Samuel Hinds (Bishop of Norwich), Whately's own chaplain, the lingering geometry professor Baden Powell and Archibald C Tait (a follower of Thomas Arnold). Another Arnold disciple, Arthur P. Stanley was appointed to the powerful position of secretary to the commission Conservatives protested the composition of the commission, and the Oxford University authorities refused to cooperate. The Convocation petitioned Queen Victoria to declare the commission unconstitutional, as it interfered with the college founder's wills. Even after its legality was established, Oxford moved into passive resistance - the university and the colleges refused to supply information to the commission, or even reply to its inquiries. But the Commission had its allies - notably the Oxford professors, most of whom had long hoped for reform but had been hitherto powerless. The professors filled in and provided the information and evidence the authorities and colleges declined to provide. The Oxford Commission Report came out in the Spring of 1852 (although formally dated August 30). And its findings were harsh - indeed quite harsher than the equivalent report on Cambridge.
The 1852 Commission Report characterized Oxford University authorities as an ecclesiastical oligopoly, its colleges negligent, and its students merely clerical office-seekers. The education it offered was irrelevant and collegial instruction ineffective. There was little or no studying going on, students were mostly idle, college life indolent, most of their time occupied with "fornication, wine and betting". The commission commended the incentives of the honours examinations, but wanted curricular reform across the board. As it stood, the Oxford curriculum provided no preparation for professional life, not even for the clergy. Logic, Oxford's central compulsory subject, was of dubious value, and only served to help students avoid mathematics. The 1852 report set out several recommendations: (1) open up the university administration, include the professors in government bodies, (2) stop relying on colleges, strengthen the central university, build up a corps of university teachers to do the bulk of the instruction; (3) allow specialization in the curriculum, focus more attention on mathematics and the sciences, (5) remove the ordination requirement for fellows (albeit keep the celibacy requirement), (6) abolish special privileges reserved to certain families, schools or local districts, remove restrictions on scholarships and fellowships and open them up to competition on merit, (7) do something about making it cheaper, so middle class students can attend, e.g. increase number and value of scholarships, allow students to reside in licensed private halls or hostels, rather than colleges. Pointedly, the report did not, however, recommend lifting the religious tests - although they did point out that the matriculation oath was probably a bad idea (young students should not make solemn oaths about things they do not yet understand).
The Commission Report was harsh enough to change the mind of William E. Gladstone. At the time, Gladstone was not only Russell's chancellor of the exchequer, he was also a member of parliament for Oxford University, a confirmed High Church man and had been one of the most vocal and strident opponents of the royal commission in 1850. Now, Gladstone took it upon himself to draft the Oxford Reform Bill, incorporating the commission's recommendations, and submitted it to parliament in March 1854. The subsequent debate was acrimonious, but the the bill passed and the Oxford Reform Act (17 & 18 Victoria, c.81) received royal assent on August 7, 1854. Gladstone wanted to give the university a chance to reform itself. He wanted to avoid the spectacle of debates on open Commons floor, with wild parliamentarians writing statutes dictating the inner workings of the venerable ancient university and colleges. Instead, the Act set up a small Executive Commission with statutory powers to oversee the process..[§1] The university and colleges were asked to reform their statutes and implement the changes in the 1852 report by themselves..[§28] Only if they failed to do so by a certain date (Michaelmas, 1855), would the Executive Commission step in and legislate for them.[§29]
The 1854 reform act left the old government bodies intact, but added a new one, the "Congregation of the University of Oxford" which included the professoriat (professors, deputy professors and public examiners), [§16], as the 'new' legislative body, the older Convocation now merely serving as a kind of upper house. The Hebdomodal council was also opened to include at least six professors [§5]. The Hebdomadal council still initiated legislation, but it went through the Congregation first, and only in the end was thrown up to the Convocation for final approval. The veto power of the Convocation was circumscribed only in the next century, in 1926, as a result of the 1922 Asquith Commission.
In teaching, the changes in the 1854 act were also not so dramatic. Many of the older university professorships were reset on new terms, strengthened and their number expanded. But the college tutorial system remained. The federal power of the central university was increased, but the colleges were still very powerful. The curriculum did began to change - although to be fair, changes had already begun before the report. Not only in economics under the Drummond professors, but also in the natural sciences, with geology (under William Buckland and Charles Lyell) leading the way. The Oxford museum of natural history had opened already in 1850. Indeed, Oxford was probably moving at a faster pace than Cambridge at this time. The main obstacle to curricular reform was not so much institutional, as personal. Many professors simply did not have the time or inclination to build it up..
The repeal of religious tests was not recommended by the 1852 Report, nor in Gladstone's original 1854 bill. They believed that the religious question should be dealt with separately, and did not want to risk sinking university reform because of it. But the lifting of religious tests had been demanded for very long by Radicals and the urban Dissenters that formed the popular base of the Whigs. The question was virtually unavoidable, and was fiercely fought during the Commons debate. It was also influenced by the contemporary Northcote-Trevelyan report, proposing to overhaul the British Civil Service, open up competition and recruit on merit. As many of these position would require degrees, maintaining the religious tests to exclude Dissenters from universities would be needlessly narrowing the pool of talent from which the civil service could draw. The removal of many (but not all) religious tests was included in the 1854 act - most notably the oath at matriculation and the oath at taking a B.A. degree (except for Divinity) [§43 & 44]. Dissenters (non-Anglicans) were finally allowed to matriculate and get BA degrees from Oxford University. However, the religious test was not lifted from the MA degree, and as a result they were still excluded from participation in Oxford government bodies. Nor did they lift any religious restrictions that might be attached to college lectureships, fellowships or scholarships.
The struggle for full repeal continued, and bills to abolish all remaining religious restrictions was introduced in 1863, and thereafter again yearly, G.J. Goschen was one of the prime promoters of the campaign at Oxford (Fawcett was equally vigorous at Cambridge).. Gladstone's Liberal party put it on their platform in 1864, but could not get it passed before the Conservatives returned to power in 1865 (Gladstone lost his Oxford seat as a result). But the fight continued. After repeated tries, the bill finally passed Commons in 1866, but failed at Lords. The Liberals returned to power in 1868, and kept trying. At last, in 1870, they included it in the Queen's speech. After a year's delay, it was finally passed. The remaining religious restrictions were abolished in the 1871 University Tests Act (34 & 35 Victoria c.26) [site, bk] Teachers of any belief are allowed to sit on university bodies. It would take some time to implement, and in 1877 an Executive Commission was appointed to sniff out and repeal of any remaining religious restrictions in the nooks and crannies of college endowments and fellowships..
In sum, the 1854 Reform made university government more democratic, reorganized and strengthened the professoriat, set curricular reform moving towards modern specializations, and got rid of special privileges and religious restrictions. It significantly changed the character of Oxford - it broke the ecclesiastical grip on the university, cleared out the clerical office-seekers and set it on track to becoming a proper educational institution. Student enrolment climbed in the aftermath.
Needless to say, the Tractarians, already in decline, were finished off by the 1854 Act. The days of high clericalism and doctrinal quarrels were over. The old vision of the Noetics, the educational philosophy of Copleston, Whately and especially Arnold, triumphed in the aftermath. Although the colleges were still powerful, a new generation of tutors emerged - such as Benjamin Jowett at Balliol College - whose mission was not merely to teach classics and mathematics, but to mold the character and morals of Oxford students, in the broader secular sense. Although the new, expanding post-reform professoriate nudged it in a scientific direction, with more specialization, it did not embrace the German model, it did not focus on research. Oxford's new educational mission was the holistic training of leaders, politicians, civil servants and teachers, for the benefit of Britain and the British empire.
It is a mistake to conclude that Oxford became more open in the aftermath of the 1854 reform. In certain ways, it became more exclusive and elitist than ever. With the clerics gone, Oxford became more firmly a finishing school for the affluent and powerful. True, it became slightly less aristocratic, but, at the same time, also less accessible to the lower classes. Post-reform Oxford became essentially the private province of the new upper middle classes, with the goal of turning the children of wealthy manufacturers, merchants and professionals, into a new gentlemanly ruling class.
In the half-century between 1854 and 1904, Oxford was essentially closed off to the poor, and contributed to the increase, rather than decrease, of social class divisions in English society.
This had not always been the case. A clerical career had always been the ticket for bright but poor children to escape their social station. The original purpose of the Oxford colleges, when they were erected back in the 14th and 15th Centuries, was precisely to provide room and board for poor students. The children of the nobility and gentry had invaded the colleges after the 16th C. Reformation, but the lower classes were never closed off. There were ample amounts of scholarships and exhibitions available to the poor, and grammar schools erected and attached to the colleges provided a ladder inside. All this was now gone. The 1854 Act, in sweeping away "special privileges", also swept away Oxford's traditional (however rickety) affirmative action for the poor. Clauses about needy students or local districts were erased, and open competition for places and scholarships on the basis of merit alone usually meant they were all snapped up by the upper classes. With the old public and grammar school connections severed, a series of new private boarding schools rose up in the wake of the reform - Cheltenham, Haileybury, Malvern, Rossall - to prepare the upper middle class children for the competitions. The lower classes did not stand a chance. Oxford's new class exclusivity was famously condemned in Thomas Hardy's 1894 novel, Jude the Obscure.
Nonetheless, in 1857 Oxford, and later Cambridge, adopted a system of local examinations in secondary schools. This was initiated on a voluntary basis by Sir Thomas Acland and Dr. Temple
Economics in Post-Reform Oxford
In the tractarian and reform years, economics at Oxford still traveled on its own course. Senior had a second five-year tenure as Drummond chair (1847-52). As far as economics was concerned, things changed little in the immediate aftermath of the 1854 reform.
Economics integration in the Oxford curriculum was tentative. From the outset, it was originally merely an optional subject in the honours course on Literae Humaniores (Classics), although as late as 1909 it is noted that rarely more than one question on economics was found on the classics exam, and was underweighed anyway. The Professorship of Political Economy was organized under the School of History. With the 1854 reforms, a new honours course in "Law & Modern History" was introduced, for which political economy was a subject. History was strengthened by the establishment of the Chichele Professorship in 1862 and the separation of the law component into its own course in 1873. Modern History quickly became the second most popular honours course, behind Literae Humaniores (Classics). Familiarity with political economy was also a subject for the general non-honours examination. In 1873, the recommended textbooks were Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and J.S. Mill's Principles and (for lower level) Fawcett's Manual and (later) F.A. Walker's First Lessons. In 1876, the Cobden Club offered a prize of £20 (bumped up £60 in 1881) for the best essay in economics by an Oxford student (to be awarded every three years).
The terms of the Drummond professorship were also revised. The two-year interval condition was revoked in December 1867, to allow Bonamy Price to serve consecutive terms. In 1877, the statutes were revised the university adding to Drummond's original endowment, bringing up the stipend to £300, supplemented by an additional £200 fellowship at All Souls College. The manner of election was also circumscribed, the convocation was set aside and the candidate was to be now elected by a special board consisting of the Chancellor of the University, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Regius Professor of Modern History, the Whyte Profesor of Moral Philosophy and a fifth elector chosen by the fellows of All Souls.
It is to the English historical school, notably the lectures of Bonamy Price and J.E. Thorold Rogers in economics and T.H. Green and Arnold Toynbee in modern history, that interest in economics grew in the 1880s. Alfred Marshall happened to also be a lecturer at Oxford during this period. Some of the new crop of economic-oriented students included William J. Ashley, John A. Hobson, L.L. Price and Edwin Cannan. Many stayed on, whether as history fellows or as Oxford extension lecturers, and went on to form organizations like the Social Science Club (1885) and the Oxford Economic Society (1886).
The Christian Social Union, a organization primarily consisting of young churchmen for the study and advocacy of "Christian social principles", was established at Oxford on November 16,1889. A London branch was set up in 1890, and a division of labor set up - the Oxford branch mainly focusing on economics (from a fact-collecting bent), the London branch mainly doing the outreach (lectures, sermons, etc.) Other branches of the CSU were soon set up in many other cities (including Cambridge), but the Oxford and London branches were by far the largest. The Oxford branch's journal, The Economic Review, established in 1891, was edited by William J.H. Campion (Keble), John Carter (Exeter) and Lancelot R. Phelps (Oriel), and became, for a brief time, something of an organ of English historicism.
The arrival of Francis Ysidro Edgeworth as Drummond Professor in 1891 changed matters. An unpopular lecturer and an economic theorist, Edgeworth deflated the historicist energy that had bubbled up during the 1880s. Edgeworth primarily relied on the theoretical economics of Mill and Marshall for the lion's share of the lectures, and economic history was gradually reduced to a single course out of seven (Mill's Principles was still the required text in 1909). Edgeworth was content with the space offered and did not push for an expansion of economics in the curricula. This finally led L.L. Price to complain to the Oxford Hebdomadal council in 1902 that the study of economics had fallen to a point of near-extinction among students, and pointed to Cambridge's strength, and its imminent introduction an economic tripos, suggesting Oxford needed to catch up. This led to the establishment of a special post-graduate "Diploma in Economics", overseen by a special seven-member Committee of Economics, to encourage more systematic study of economics at Oxford. The Diploma lectures and examinations began in 1904, consisted of five papers - three required papers on economic theory, the history of economic thought, and economic history, and two elective papers on any mix of these (including applied topics).
Economics finally ascended with the establishment of the honours course in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) in 1920.
The Oxford Institute for Statistics, organized under director Arthur L. Bowley, served as a gathering point for emigré scholars in the 1930s-40s fleeing fascist-dominated Central Europe, most notably Michal Kalecki, but also Thomas Balogh, Fritz Burchardt, Kurt Mandelbaum, E.F. Schummacher and Josef Steindl.
Oxford Colleges and Halls
Oxford University is a collegiate university, composed of 38 constituent colleges and related halls.
Drummond Professorship in Political Economy
Founded 1825 by London banker Henry Drummond, formerly of Christ Church, with an endowment of £100 per annum. The professor was elected by convocation and had to have an Oxford degree and residence. Under its terms, the professor was required to deliver nine lectures on political economy per year, and publish and print at least one of them. The term of the Drummond professorship was five years. Originally, nobody could be re-elected to it until after a two year interval had passed. This clause was repealed in December 1867 (Bonamy Price being the first to benefit from it). From 1877, Oxford added £300 p/year to the Drummond chair, with an additional £200 for a fellowship at All Soul's College. The Drummond Professor was elected by a board consisting of the President of the University, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Regius Professor of History, White Professor of Moral Philosophy, and a representative of the Warden and Fellows of All Souls.
Holders of Drummond Chair (& college/hall)
Oxford Catallactic School
Later Oxford Economists
Resources on Oxford
All rights reserved, Gonçalo L. Fonseca