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Owen Chadwick and Jack Goody

Within the past fortnight two giant figures in the long history of the University of Cambridge have died; Professor Sir Jack Goody, on the 16th July at the age of 95, and the Reverend Professor Owen Chadwick OM, on the 17th July at the age of 99. I was privileged to know and indeed to publish for both of them, in Jack’s case many times, and I just wanted in this brief notice to convey something of the flavour of these two vastly distinguished academic figures, both in their own ways exemplary of a University world that has now largely disappeared.

Long-standing CUP series editor and former Press Syndic John Morrill has already paid profound tribute to Owen Chadwick (‘one of the most remarkable men of letters of the twentieth century’) in a full-page Guardian obituary and it would be otiose to repeat such an undertaking here. There is also an extended account of his thought, both historical and theological, in the first volume of Maurice Cowling’s Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England, published by CUP in 1981. 

Owen Chadwick was surely among the most personally charming men who has ever lived in Cambridge (he was famously characterised by Bill Davies (then the senior figure in Cambridge history publishing) as ‘the Cary Grant of the History Faculty’ and I well remember our first meeting, at an otherwise somewhat solemn history faculty gathering in the mid-1980s. My personal stock went up greatly when I identified that Owen was wearing an All Black tie, with its characteristic fern motif, a tie which Owen revealed he had been given by Graham Mourie’s all-conquering New Zealand side of 1977, a relic of those far-off pre-professional days when visiting touring teams routinely played against university fifteens (and, perhaps even more astonishingly, the Cambridge side of 1977 were one of only four teams to score a try against those All Blacks during their entire tour).  This rugby connection is not as trivial as it sounds: as an undergraduate at St John’s, Owen had devoted far more energy to the sporting field than to his studies, captained the Cambridge fifteen, and was indeed at one point nearly sent down. As John Morrill and others have noted, Hitler, and the War, changed everything.

This Press published for Owen Chadwick at regular intervals during his long and hugely productive career: he also worked with Penguin, denominational imprints like SCM, and (especially) Oxford, for whom he and his brother Henry edited together The Oxford History of the Christian Church. Something of his extraordinary range can be gathered from the simple chronological scope of the three major works he published with Cambridge: From Bossuet to Newman (1957, revised edition 1987), Britain and the Vatican during the Second World War (1988), and The Spirit of the Oxford Movement (1990). Our last professional encounter came as recently as 2010, when a telephone call from the Edinburgh Building receptionist revealed that ‘an old man had come in with a manuscript he wanted to discuss’. Such messages have always come with a huge health warning, and I was surprised more than somewhat to discover that the slight figure in EB reception clutching a shopping bag was none other than a spritely nonagenarian member of the Order of Merit. The script, on the not exactly small-scale topic of The Church and the French Revolution, was tied up in best barristerial tradition, although not with pink ribbon, but with what transpired to be an Old Cliftonian tie (Clifton were the celebrated foes of Chadwick’s own school, Tonbridge, and this tie had been another sporting gift). Sadly, however, this particular story does not come with a happy ending, as reports from a suitably senior revolutionary scholar confirmed that a good deal of further work was required ‘to render this publishable to the same standard as the author’s previous books’. The Press Syndicate, in a rather sensitive and melancholy moment, stood aside. It is a (very) interesting question as to whether there is scope now for a third party to undertake the editorial work necessary…

Owen Chadwick occupied some of the greatest offices within the University, as first Master of Selwyn College (1956), then Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History (1958), then Regius Professor of Modern History (1968) and ultimately that of Vice-Chancellor (1969). In 1981, he was elected President of the British Academy. Behind the scenes, he also ran large parts of the Church of England. Remarkably he was Master of Selwyn, Regius Professor and Vice-Chancellor simultaneously. Even more remarkably, Owen would at this time often be spotted in the University Library (by Quentin Skinner and others) in the evening, having cycled round to the UL for a little light research after supper, as respite from the administrative and organisational and pastoral cares of the day. They don’t, as the saying goes, make’em like that any more.

If Owen Chadwick was a scholar of particularly English, or perhaps more appropriately Anglican resonance, then Jack Goody was an altogether more cosmopolitan sort of intellectual, and it is far from coincidental that the first public notices of his death have appeared not in English newspapers but in continental, and especially the French press, where Le Monde and Le Nouvel Observateur have already paid fulsome tribute.

In parochial CUP terms, Jack was one of, if not the most important social scientific authors of all time. He worked very closely first with Patricia Williams, and then with Sue Allen-Mills, at a time when the ‘-ologies’ were rather more prominent in the overall Press landscape than they are now. Anthropology and sociology were the politics and law of their day, and Jack’s entrepreneurial role, as the driving series editor of Cambridge Studies in Social Anthropology, was vital. He was also a major pillar of the Press relationship with the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris, another highly prominent feature of that Cambridge social science publishing landscape of the 1970s and 1980s. In all Jack published something like fifteen books with Cambridge, of which I calculate that I (in conjunction with Teresa Lewis, Lucy Rhymer, and many other stalwart colleagues) looked after nine, including the celebrated but sadly unreprintable (and emphatically pre-digital) Culture of Flowers of 1993. Jack was also translated more often (I think) than any other Cambridge academic author in the humanities and social sciences: I recall with pleasure the shock of walking into the local bookstore/postcard emporium in Amalfi, Italy in 1984 and encountering Il Mulino’s rendition of The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe. Jack’s own Italian adventures during the Second World War were indeed the stuff of film, and his account of that extraordinary period of his life has in fact been published in Italian, if not in English.

A Fellow of St John’s for more than fifty years, William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology, and recipient of innumerable academic distinctions, Jack remained astonishingly productive throughout his retirement, publishing his final book on Metals, Culture and Capitalism as recently as 2012: of the twenty-five books by Jack Goody listed on Wikipedia, no fewer than fifteen appeared after his sixty-seventh birthday. Indeed, his pace of work remained phenomenal: I shall never forget being with Jack in Paris on a gorgeous July day in about 1995, when he would have been roughly seventy-five, at a time of life when most persons would regard a summer’s day in Paris as an opportunity to do lots of lovely leisurely things. Jack, however, went into the library of the MSH/EHESS at about 9.30, took half an hour for lunch, and then met me for dinner at some time after seven. He had been reading, and thinking, all of the time.

Jack was a native of St Albans, and nearly enough of a North Londoner to be a lifetime Arsenal supporter. When he lived in Orchard Street for a period during his 80s, he and I would meet up at The Cricketers pub nearby to watch Arsenal on whichever cable channel they were performing, especially during the golden ‘early Wenger’ period of Gunner domination. This latter phase was sadly short lived… Jack had an astonishing catholicity of interests, of which football was one. By title an anthropologist (although he had read for the English tripos as an undergraduate), he extended into sociology, archaeology, African studies and (especially) history, serving for many years on the editorial board of Past and Present. One of his closest intellectual friends, and someone of similar cosmopolitan appeal, was Eric Hobsbawm, likewise a stalwart of P&P (as was the late Christopher Bayly, another ally of Jack’s and another very sad Cambridge loss this year). Jack also had, by general consent, the worst hand-writing in the University (even worse than mine, which is saying quite a lot).

There will doubtless be major public acts of commemoration for both Owen and Jack later this summer. It is one of the many hugely privileged aspects of working for Cambridge University Press that inter-acting with such remarkable people is part of our daily existence – even if very few are quite so remarkable as either Owen Chadwick or Jack Goody.

Richard Fisher, Former MD, Academic Publishing

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