mobile menu decorative search icon decorativeSearch the site

Edward Freeman Papers

Date range: 1843–95.

Papers of Edward Augustus Freeman (1823–92), freelance historian and journalist.

Freeman is best remembered as one of the leading Victorian writers on English medieval history, and his most enduring monument is his six-volume The History of the Norman Conquest of England (1867–79).

He was also an authority on the ancient world, especially the development of Greek civilization, and was a passionate supporter of modern Greece and the struggle of Orthodox Christians in the Balkans for independence from the Turkish Empire. 

He had a further interest in architecture, and particularly in ecclesiastical buildings, and his first book was A History of Architecture (1849). 

Freeman made three attempts to obtain a professorship at Oxford before his very belated appointment in 1884 to the Regius Professorship of Modern History.

The archive comprises:

  • correspondence, much of which reflects Freeman’s interests in architecture, Anglo-Catholicism and the Oxford Movement, the Orthodox Church, classical and modern Greece, and the Balkans
  • proof and published copies of Freeman’s printed works
  • manuscript writings by Freeman, including a virtually complete original manuscript of The History of the Norman Conquest of England
  • scrapbooks containing cuttings,  reviews and correspondence
  • diplomas, honours and decorations awarded to Freeman

There is also a collection of over 6,200 pen-and-ink sketches by Freeman of churches in England, Wales, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, many of which are no longer standing.

These are an invaluable resource for architectural and art historians.

The correspondence includes seventy-nine letters from the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott; and other letters from:

  • Walter Bagehot, economist, political analyst and journalist
  • Mountague Bernard, international lawyer and chairman of the commission to draft new statutes for the University of Oxford
  • Richard William Church, Dean of St Paul’s and friend of Newman
  • Alexander Fraser, Scottish philosopher and editor of the North British Review
  • Sir Stephen Glynne, MP and antiquary
  • Walter Farquhar Hook, Dean of Chichester and church historian
  • Richard Holt Hutton, theologian and journalist
  • Adeline Paulina Irby, traveller, Balkan sympathizer and relief worker
  • Henry Parry Liddon, Anglo-Catholic clergyman and leading member of the Oxford Movement
  • Sir Henry James Sumner Maine, prominent jurist and contributor to the Saturday Review
  • Sir Clements Robert Markham, geographer
  • Friedrich Max Müller, Sanskrit scholar and student of Eastern religions
  • Humphry Sandwith, army physician and campaigner for Serbian independence from the Ottoman Empire
  • Viscount Strangford, eccentric traveller and orientalist
  • the Rev. Henry Thompson, religious author and classical scholar
  • John Byrne Leicester Warren, 3rd Baron de Tabley, poet, botanist, numismatist and man of letters
  • Charlotte Mary Yonge, prolific novelist and Tractarian

The Freeman papers provide valuable insights into the religious, political, architectural, educational and cultural life of the nineteenth century, and into the careers and opinions of many prominent figures.

The archive is remarkably broad in its scope, spanning ecclesiastical architecture and debates over the ‘restoration’ of medieval buildings, the Oxford Movement, academic politics in Oxford, Greece and the Eastern Question, and campaigns against cruelty to animals, especially opposition to vivisection and blood sports.

See also

Finding aids

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • Published handlist, P. McNiven, 'Handlist of the Papers of Edward Augustus Freeman in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 72, no. 2 (1990), pp. 27-71.
  • M.E. Bratchel, Edward Augustus Freeman and the Victorian Interpretation of the Norman Conquest (Ilfracombe, 1969).
  • H.A. Cronne, 'Edward Augustus Freeman, 1823-1892', History, vol. 28 (1943), pp. 78-82.
  • Christine Dade-Robertson, ‘Edward Augustus Freeman and the Foreign Office Debate’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 88, no. 1 (2006), pp. 165–90.


The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library