Henry Melvill Gwatkin

Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Cambridge

The Knowledge of God and Its Historical Development

In his first series of twelve lectures, Gwatkin focuses on the nature and historical expression of God’s revelation. Arguing that natural theology presumes God is a ‘person’, it is reasonable for humankind to expect relationship and revelation. In his second series of twelve lectures, the focus remains on the power of Christian revelation and its reach beyond religion to social and political movements, concluding that Christian practice must not be detached from society. 


Henry Melvill Gwatkin was born on 30 July 1844 in Barrow upon Soar, England. An English theologian and historian, Gwatkin was instrumental in establishing ecclesial history as a subject worthy of attention at Cambridge. In 1868, he won Cambridge’s Scholefield Prize and Hebrew Prize, beginning an academic career as a fellow of St John’s College. He was appointed Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History with an attached fellowship at Emmanuel College in 1891, holding the chair for the rest of his life. 

Editor of Cambridge Medieval History in 1911, he promoted ideas about the value of ecclesiastical history. Childhood scarlet fever contributed to hearing loss and speech difficulties, and his sight declined due to intensive reading, leading to a blunt and dogmatic persona. His important and varied works include The Meaning of Ecclesiastical History (1891), Studies of Arianism (1882), Early Church History (1909), and the posthumously published The Sacrifice of Thankfulness (1917) and Britain’s Case Against Germany (1917). He gained international attention for his papers on the radulae of snails, now held in the British Museum.