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Ronald Preston Papers

Date range: 1934-2001

Medium: Archive

Ronald Preston (1913–2001), theologian, has been described as ‘one of the foremost Christian social thinkers of the twentieth century’ and a leading authority on social ethics and the ecumenical movement.

After early work with the Student Christian Movement, Preston was appointed part-time lecturer in Christian ethics at the University of Manchester in 1948. He later combined this role with duties as examining chaplain to the Bishop of Manchester and canon theologian at the Cathedral. For ten years from 1970 Preston occupied the newly established chair of social and pastoral theology at the University. As Professor Emeritus he continued to research, lecture and write extensively on topics such as the Church and capitalism, poverty, social justice and inter-faith dialogue.

Preston’s archive, which arrived in two deposits in 2002 and 2007, comprises a large number of alphabetically-arranged files containing correspondence and papers reflecting his wide-ranging interests and activities as a churchman and theologian.

There are files on:

  • Christian ethics;
  • The World Council of Churches;
  • Committees and working groups of the Church of England on which Preston served;
  • The ecumenical movement;
  • International conferences that Preston attended or helped to organize;
  • The Student Christian Movement;
  • The study and teaching of social and pastoral theology at the University of Manchester;
  • University administration;
  • Preston’s publishing activities, and articles and reviews by him;
  • Files of general correspondence.

There are also files relating to other theologians and social thinkers, including Paul Abrecht, Reinhold Niebuhr and William Temple, and to specific social and moral issues such as abortion, communism, contraception, ecology, homosexuality, human rights, industry, ethical investment, marriage, pornography and sexuality. The archive also contains a collection of lecture notes.

Further information:

  • Catalogues available via the Special Collections reading rooms.
  • R. John Elford and Ian S. Markam, The Middle Way: Theology, Politics and Economics in the Later Thought of R. H. Preston (London, 2000).
  • Normunds Kamergrauzis, The Persistence of Christian Realism: a Study of the Social Ethics of Ronald H. Preston (Uppsala, 2001).


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