Frederick York Powell 1894-1904

Frederick York Powell was Regius professor from 1894 to 1904, during which time he disappointed colleagues and students alike with his lectures. Neither do his two publications in that time – translations of the Færeyinga Saga and selections from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat – point to a distinguished historical career, but this would be misleading.

Before acceding to the chair Powell had lectured in law, as well as teaching several medieval languages and publishing a history of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of Henry VIII for schoolchildren. He brought the poet Mallarmé and the sculptor Rodin to lecture in Oxford, supported the formation of a School of English, and studied numerous languages, including Romany and Maori.

His political ideals are indicated by his involvement in the founding of Ruskin College for the education of trades unionists, and by the project to publish A Penny Garland of Songs of Labour with the Oxford chimneysweep William Hines.