Henry William Carless Davis 1925-1928

Charles Harding Firth’s dissatisfaction with historical education in Oxford is to some extent borne out by the fact that several Regius professors, including his successor Henry William Carless Davis, took degrees in Literae Humaniores rather than Modern History. In Davis’s case the influence of this early training can be seen in his publications in medieval history and the history of political thought, with England under the Normans and Angevins (1905) being his best-known work. But his interests were incredibly wide-ranging; he also wrote on England in the 1830s and ‘40s and the so-called ‘great game’ between Britain and Russia for dominance in Asia. In all this Davis eschewed the Whiggish belief in progress that had dominated earlier thinking, though he was equally disparaging about social historians’ newfound interest in the ‘common man’.

In addition to his writing and teaching Davis accepted responsibility in the university (as a curator of the Bodleian during the planning of the New Bodleian) and in public life (on parliamentary committees dealing with unemployment insurance and factory legislation).