Edward Augustus Freeman 1884-1892

When William Stubbs became bishop of Chester in 1884, his friend Edward Augustus Freeman was offered the chair at Gladstone’s instigation.  Freeman devoted his academic life to the study of Anglo-Saxon history. Though he mourned ‘the last hopeless struggles of conquered England’ in 1066, he believed that the English spirit did not succumb to the Normans, but persisted right down to his own day.

Freeman was a sound classical scholar, but his scholarly interests were entwined with his political ideas, which were chauvinistic at best (he tried to purge his vocabulary of ‘foreign’ words in an effort to recover Anglo-Saxon or Germanic purity) and ultimately deeply racist (a lecture tour of the USA in 1881-2 was accompanied by crude and violent remarks about Jewish, Irish and African Americans). Known as a vehement and rude man in Oxford, he pursued enmities doggedly, and despite playing a minor part in public life, never achieved his ambition to enter Parliament.