Keith Thomas (historian)

Keith Thomas
President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford
In office
Preceded by Sir Kenneth Dover
Succeeded by Sir Tim Lankester
Personal details
Born Keith Vivian Thomas
(1933-01-02) 2 January 1933
Wick, Glamorgan, Wales
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Valerie Thomas
Children Two
Keith Thomas
Academic work
Discipline History
Sub discipline Social and cultural history of early modern England
Institutions University of Oxford
All Souls College, Oxford
St John's College, Oxford
Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Sir Keith Vivian Thomas, FBA, FRHistS (born 2 January 1933) is a British historian of the early modern world based at Oxford University. He is best known as the author of Religion and the Decline of Magic and Man and the Natural World. From 1986 and 2000, he was President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

Early life and education

Thomas was born on 2 January 1933 in Wick, Glamorgan, Wales.[1] He was educated at Barry County Grammar School, a state grammar school in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan.[2] Having been awarded the Brackenbury Scholarship, he studied modern history at Balliol College, Oxford.[2] He graduated from the University of Oxford with a first class Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1955;[2] as per tradition, his BA was later promoted to a Master of Arts (MA Oxon).[2][3]

Academic career

He was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford from 1955 until 1957, when he was elected Fellow of St John's College. He was Reader in Modern History in the University of Oxford 1978–85, and Professor of Modern History in 1986, in which year he became President of Corpus Christi College. He retired in 2000, at the statutory age of 67, and the following year he was once more elected Fellow of All Souls College. He served for some time as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University and a Delegate to the University Press. He was a consultant editor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

He was a member of the Economic and Social Research Council 1985–90, and of the Reviewing Committee on Exports of Works of Art 1990–93, and, since 1992, of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. From 1991 until 1998, he was a Trustee of the National Gallery and since 1997 he has been Chairman of the British Library Advisory Committee for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Personal life

He is married to Lady Valerie Thomas and has two children.

He is a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association.


He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1970 (Vice-President 1980–84) and a Fellow of the British Academy in 1979 (President 1993–97). In 1983, he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1993, he was elected to the Academia Europaea. He is also a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

He is an Honorary Fellow of Balliol (1984) and St John's (1986), and Corpus Christi Colleges, Oxford, and of Cardiff University (1995). He has been awarded honorary doctorates by University of Kent (DLitt 1983), University of Wales (DLitt 1987), Williams College (LLD 1988), University of Sheffield (LittD 1992), University of Cambridge (LittD 1995), University of Hull (DLitt 1995), University of Leicester (DLitt 1996), University of Sussex (DLitt 1996), Oglethorpe University (LLD 1996), and University of Warwick (DLitt 1998).

In the 1988 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was appointed a Knight Bachelor[4] and in 1991, he was honoured with the Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana.

Portraits of Sir Keith Thomas hang at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and the British Academy and National Portrait Gallery, London.[5][6]


Works authored

Works edited

Works jointly edited


Further reading

Academic offices
Preceded by
Kenneth Dover
President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Tim Lankester
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