Charles Harding Firth 1904-1925

Charles Harding Firth, who held the chair from 1904 to 1925, is remembered for propounding the view that the School of Modern History should do more to train professional historians.  College tutors, upon whose qualifications this was a thinly-veiled attack, objected that training statesmen, administrators, prelates, and diplomats was of at least equal value.
 

Before acceding to the chair Firth had made his name with editions of sources for the history of seventeenth-century England, such as The Journal of Joachim Hare and The Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow. He also published monographs on Scotland and the Commonwealth (1895), Scotland and the Protectorate (1899), and The House of Lords during the Civil War (1911).  Firth believed that the historian should use ‘scientific’ methods to arrive at a ‘faithful representation of the life of the time.’ He was a voracious devourer of archival sources, but acutely conscious of the limitations on what one scholar alone could achieve: ‘he moves in a little circle of light, seeing as far as his little candle throws its beams.’