Charles William Previté-Orton

Charles William Previté-Orton
Born (1877-01-16)16 January 1877
Died 11 March 1947(1947-03-11) (aged 70)
Nationality British
Fields Medieval history
Institutions St John's College, Cambridge
Alma mater St John's College, Cambridge
Known for The Cambridge Medieval History

Charles William Previté-Orton (16 January 1877 11 March 1947) was a medieval historian and the first Professor of Medieval History at the University of Cambridge on the establishment of the position in 1937.[1]


Previté-Orton was born on 16 January 1877 in Arnesby in Leicestershire. After losing an eye at the age of 14, he was not sufficiently well to attend university until 1905 at the age of 28. A scholar of St John's College, Cambridge, he was placed in the first class of each part of the history tripos and was elected a fellow of his college in 1911, where he remained for the duration of his life. From 1925-38 he was editor of the English Historical Review; he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1929[2] and was appointed as Cambridge's first Professor of Medieval History in 1937, holding the position until 1942. He died on 11 March 1947.[3]

Previté-Orton's major work, in conjunction with Zachary Nugent Brooke, was to oversee as editor the later volumes of the eight volume Cambridge Medieval History, completed in 1937. However, he achieved his greatest historical influence among general readers rather than scholars through his three general textbooks, Outlines of Medieval History (1916), Methuens textbook A History of Europe, 1198–1378 (1937), and the posthumously published Shorter Cambridge Medieval History (2 vols., 1952).[3]

According to Barrie Dobson, who would some four decades later succeed to the chair of Medieval history at Cambridge, "in the opinion of those who knew him personally, as a scholar Previté was lucid and accurate but passionless rather than original. As an editor, however, he was critical, shrewd, painstaking, and generous: few scholars made so sustained a contribution to the reputation of medieval studies at Cambridge during the first half of the twentieth century."[3]


  1. Venn database of Cambridge University offices and officers
  2. British Academy Record Archived July 25, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 24 July 2015
  3. 1 2 3 Dobson, Barrie (2004). "Orton, Charles William Previté- (1877–1947)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35608. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
Academic offices
Preceded by
None: new position
Professor of Medieval History, University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
Zachary Nugent Brooke

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