Maurice Powicke 1928-1947

Maurice Powicke studied medieval history at Manchester University before taking degrees in Literae humaniores and then Modern History at Oxford. He held the Regius chair from 1928 to 1947.

Powicke wrote narrative political histories of thirteenth-century England. King Henry III and the Lord Edward (1947) and his thirteenth century volume in the Oxford History of England (1953) placed a huge number of characters on the stage, and introduced a new class of sources to the study of medieval history. With his student Christopher Cheney, Powicke produced the monumental Councils and Synods, 1205-1313, which made vast archival riches available to church and social historians for generations to come.

If his monographic prose was clear, it was not exactly thrilling, but any reputation for austerity is belied by the lively way he presented medieval history to general readers in two pithy introductions to the period. His was a fascination for that ‘which escapes us, and which we feel must always escape us.’