R. W. Southern

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Sir Richard William Southern (1912–2001), who published under the name R. W. Southern, was a noted English medieval historian, based at the University of Oxford.


Southern was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated with a first-class honours degree in history. At Oxford, Southern's mentors were Sir Maurice Powicke and Vivian Hunter Galbraith. He was a Fellow of Balliol from 1937 to 1961 (where he lectured alongside Christopher Hill), Chichele Professor of Modern History at Oxford from 1961 to 1969, and President of St John's College, Oxford, from 1969 to 1981. He was president of the Royal Historical Society from 1969 to 1973.

He was awarded the Balzan Prize for Medieval History in 1987. He was knighted in 1974. He died in Oxford in 2001.


Southern's Making of the Middle Ages (1953) established his reputation as a medievalist. This pioneering work, sketching the main personalities and cultural influences that shaped the character of Western Europe from the late tenth to the early thirteenth century and describing the development of social, political, and religious institutions, opened up new vistas in medieval history, and it has been translated into many languages. Southern's monographic studies of St Anselm and Robert Grosseteste have redefined their historiography.


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