Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

6 July 1910 A.D. English Historian, Arthur Geoffrey Dickens, Born; Playing Down Reformation

6 July 1910 A.D.  English Historian, Arthur Geoffrey Dickens, Born

Arthur Geoffrey Dickens FBA (6 July 1910 – 31 July 2001)[1] was an English academic and author.

He was born in Hull, Yorkshire, on 6 July 1910. Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, he served during World War II in the Royal Artillery. From May to October 1945 he served with the military government in Lübeck, where he had to supervise and edit the local newspaper.

In 1949, Dickens was appointed Professor of History at the University of Hull, later becoming Deputy Principal and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, 1950-1953, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, 1959-1962. He took up the post of Professor of History at King's College London in 1962, where he remained until becoming Director of the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) and Professor of History in the University of London, 1967-1977. Dickens was also active in other bodies, including being President of the Ecclesiastical History Society, 1966-1968; a member of the Advisory Council on Public Records, 1968-1976; an advisor to the Council on the Export of Works of Art, 1968-1976; Secretary, Chairman and General Secretary of the British National Committee of Historical Sciences, 1967-1979; Foreign Secretary of the British Academy, 1969-1979; and Vice-President of the British Record Society, 1978-1980. Dickens enjoyed "a deep love affair with Germany",[2] was a moving force in the establishment of the German Historical Institute in London and was decorated by the German government.[3] He died in London at the age of 91.[1]

His book on the English Reformation was, for many years the standard text on the subject, relying as it did on detailed examination of parish records.

He was a fellow of the British Academy.

Papers of Professor Dickens are held by Senate House Library, University of London, and are available to be consulted there.[4]


  • Lübeck Diary. Victor Gollancz Ltd., London 1947
  • The English Reformation, Batsford, 1964 ISBN 0-00-633064-9
  • Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York, 1959
  • Thomas Cromwell and the English Reformation, 1959
  • Reformation and Society in Sixteenth Century Europe, 1966
  • The Counter Reformation, 1968
  • The German Nation and Martin Luther, 1974
  • The Age of Humanism and Reformation, 1977


2.      ^ Patrick Collinson, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 77, p. 21


Telegraph Obituary of Professor Arthur Geoffrey Dickens

Professor A G Dickens

PROFESSOR ARTHUR DICKENS, who has died aged 91, was his generation's leading English historian of the Reformation, and for many years an important figure in Anglo-German scholarly co-operation.

12:00AM BST 02 Aug 2001

PROFESSOR ARTHUR DICKENS, who has died aged 91, was his generation's leading English historian of the Reformation, and for many years an important figure in Anglo-German scholarly co-operation.

With The English Reformation (1964), Dickens established a new benchmark of excellence for surveys of the sort and set the agenda for teaching and research in the field for the next 25 years.

Where earlier histories of the Reformation were often arid and narrowly political, Dickens offered a rich and nuanced account which took religious motivation seriously and emphasised the preconditions of reformation, such as popular anticlericalism and the native tradition of heresy, Lollardy.

Dickens was a life-long Protestant, and though much of his early work was on medieval monasticism, he had little understanding of, and even less sympathy for, the Middle Ages.

These attitudes coloured his perceptions of the English Reformation, which was in his view the speedy triumph of Gospel-Christianity over a jaded and unpopular religious system which was collapsing under its own weight; 16th-century Catholicism was, he considered, doomed to fail because it was un-English.

By the 1980s the tide had turned against Dickens' reading of the Reformation, and the local reformation studies which he had done so much to establish were making his views hard to defend. Somewhat unfairly, "Dickensianism" became a code-word for a blinkered and "Whiggish" account of the Reformation, which neglected both the vigour of the old and the unpopularity of the new religions in Tudor England.

Uncowed, Dickens fought back in 1989 with an extensively revised edition of The English Reformation. But he was unable to halt the establishment of a new orthodoxy in university and school courses, in which his work featured as a stance to challenge rather than a point of departure.

Arthur Geoffrey Dickens was born at Hull on July 6 1910. His religious sensibilities and historical instincts were formed early on by the Anglicanism he inherited from his paternal grandfather, a High Tory and a churchwarden, and by the ardent primitive Methodism of his mother's family.

Dickens was educated at Hymers College, Hull, then at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied Modern History and was deeply influenced by his tutor K B MacFarlane. He graduated with a First in 1932, and the following year became a tutorial fellow in History at Keble College. He remained there until 1940. Although he later looked back on the period as one of "unrelenting toil", he accepted an honorary fellowship at the college in 1971.

During the Second World War Dickens served in the Royal Artillery, and at the end of the war was stationed as British Press Officer in Lubeck - a Hanseatic town which reminded him of Hull. The diary he kept there formed the basis for his first book, Lubeck Diary (1947).

An ardent Yorkshireman, Dickens' earliest historical publications concentrated on the impact of the Reformation in the Tudor North. At MacFarlane's suggestion, he began as an historian of Yorkshire Catholic Recusancy and of the region's monasteries.

But Dickens's interests eventually shifted to more radical traditions, a move signalled by the publication in 1959 of Lollards and Protestants. Based on detailed and highly professional work on the Northern archival sources - until then the preserve of antiquarians and local historians - the book marked a new approach to English Reformation studies, and established Dickens's reputation.

In 1949, he left Oxford for the G F Grant Chair of History at the University of Hull. He was delighted to return to the city in which he took a defensive pride - his grandfather had been chief inspector of the Alexandra dock there - and wrote a guide to the East Riding, one of his most unbuttoned and self-revealing books, which was published in 1954.

At Hull, Dickens threw himself into the life of the university, playing a leading role in establishing a monograph publications series, serving as Deputy Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and helping to establish a University art collection.

He ran the History department from his house in Cottingham, venturing briefly into the university each morning to deal crisply with administrative chores before retreating to his study with an elusive "I'll be seeing you soon".

But Dickens was a conscientious and gifted teacher, winning the affection and loyalty of colleagues with judiciously dispensed confidences.

In 1962, Dickens moved to King's College London, and two years later published The English Reformation. He left King's in 1967 to become director of the Institute of Historical Research and editor of its bulletin. With control over one of the most influential historical journals, he became an indispensable figure in every major enterprise in his field.

As such, he felt himself to be the senior man, and though invariably kindly, his sense of eminence could be startling, particularly later on in his life. On one occasion, chairing an Historical Association lecture by a distinguished Tudor historian, Dickens wound up the proceedings by declaring that he hadn't understood a word of the lecture and was sure the audience hadn't either. Fortunately, he added, the speaker had a train to catch so there would be no questions, and then, turning to the lecturer, advised him to "come back another time, and give us something simpler".

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dickens turned his attention from England to Europe in a series of best-selling textbooks on the Renaissance and Reformation which presented continental scholarship to a British audience.

A life-long Germanophile, he threw himself in particular into promoting Anglo-German scholarly co-operation on every level, and played a leading role in the establishment of the German Historical Institute in London in 1968. His appointment as foreign secretary of the British Academy in 1969 enabled him to strengthen these continental links; he travelled widely and established many academic contacts, and in 1980 was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit by the West German government.

Dickens' interest in Germany took his historical work in a new direction. His Birkbeck Lectures for 1969-70, published in 1974 as The German Nation and Martin Luther, drew attention to the new social history of the German Reformation, though he never undertook any primary research into the subject himself.

Dickens went on working into his seventies and eighties, producing a major collaborative survey of Reformation historiography in 1985, and of Erasmus in 1994.

A man of wide culture, Dickens built up and then sold a distinguished collection of Dutch Old Masters, replacing them with a collection of 20th-century British paintings, most of which he presented to the University of Hull in 1980.

He married, in 1936, Mollie Bygott. She predeceased him in 1978. They had two sons.

New York Times Obituary

A. G. Dickens, 91, Who Offered A New View of the Reformation

Published: August 13, 2001

A. G. Dickens, a noted British historian of the Reformation who was among the first to play down the theological disputes of this period in Europe and to emphasize broader social change instead, died on July 31 in London. He was 91.

For Professor Dickens, the Reformation was a European phenomenon in which new outlooks fostered a religious revolution with roots going back hundreds of years. New methods of communication and transport, the professor argued, allowed the ideas of the Reformation to spread.

In his most important book, ''The English Reformation'' (Batsford), first published in 1964, he wrote that in England the rise of Protestantism ''demands to be considered within a long temporal and wide geographic context'' extending far beyond Pope Clement VII's refusal to grant Henry VIII a divorce.

For the reformers, he argued, the church had taken a wrong turning centuries before, with the Emperor Constantine allowing pagan superstitions to penetrate Christianity while the popes created an imperial papacy that was rich and politically powerful but increasingly bereft of spiritual authority.

An excellent review article of Mr. Dickens’ volume is available at: A. G. Dickens and the Men of the Sixteenth Century

Thomas E. Morrissey

The American Historical Review
Vol. 77, No. 2 (Apr., 1972), pp. 453-462
Published by:
Oxford University Press
Article Stable URL:

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