e-Matters 23rd October 2020

Amongst our membership lies great experience, wisdom, and insight, so rather than stay silent (not a modus to which the Development & Alumni Relations Office subscribes!) we thought we should bring you some thoughts and reflections from our own broad community. These pieces are also featured in our regular e-Matters newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive e-Matters please contact development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk

Dear Members and Friends,

Welcome to this October issue of e-Matters.

We are very much missing you at events, whether here in Oxford, or around the world, but we are very much hoping that that will change soon. With luck the Oxford vaccine will soon be in production, allowing for travel to begin again. You may like to keep abreast of developments, with other Oxford-based research and coronavirus news, by visiting the University webpages at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/coronavirus

Whilst, with regret, the House is now closed to visitors until further notice, we are hoping to welcome our Old Members back to the House as soon as we can. Please visit this page for any updates about visiting information. In the meantime you may be pleased to know that The Lonely Planet has recently released the new Ultimate Travel List and revealed the world's top 500 places to visit. Christ Church, ranked 314th, is the only place in Oxford to be featured, along with another 33 spots in the United Kingdom.

Dame Emma WalmsleyGraham Elton OBEWe offer our congratulations to Dame Emma Walmsley (1987) and Graham Elton (1982) for featuring in the Queen's 2020 Birthday Honours list. 

Emma has been awarded a DBE for services to the Pharmaceutical sector, and Graham becomes a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to the Economy.


Many thanks to all Members and Friends who have responded so far with gifts to our COVID-19 Student Support Fund. We have now passed the £40,000 mark, but are hoping to raise more to assist Junior members in many different ways, and to ensure the highest standards of safety across the House. Please click here for more details. Should you be able to help support our students during this very challenging time, we encourage you to help make a difference now.

One new and distinct project which has arisen is funding the Law Trove, which might appeal in particular to those who studied Law at the House, or who now practice Law, and which has been added within the umbrella of our Covid Student Support Appeal.

During the extended lockdown our Law students were fortunate enough to be able to access the Oxford University Press ‘Law Trove’, an online subscription service through which students were able to access all legal textbooks published by the OUP. It is a fantastic resource to which the OUP generously suspended paid subscriptions for the duration. 

Those subscriptions have now been reinstated but we realise that for all our Law students the electronic resources that access can give are enormously valuable and supportive of their academic progress.  We would like to raise the necessary funding for all 50 or so of our undergraduate and graduate Law Students to have access to this online resource, the normal cost of which is c.£200 per head, for the duration of this academic year, a year which we now know will bring many more challenges for our students.  We are therefore hoping to raise the sum of up to £10,000 to support this initiative.

This is another bumper issue of e-Matters and we trust you enjoy reading it. The long version of articles are available on the website, as is the archive of back issues to be found here.

Do, please, also consider contributing your own pieces for future issues by sending them to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk 

With best wishes, 
Mark Coote and the Development Team


News from the House

Christ Church and Oxford Mark Important Women's Anniversaries

Logo: Forty Years of Women at the HouseNot only is this the 40th anniversary of Women entering the House as undergraduates, but 2020 also sees the centenary of Women's right to matriculate and to graduate at the University of Oxford. 

The first degrees, 1920



It is an occasion to celebrate the multiple ways in which women have contributed to the University and women graduates have made a mark in the world. It is also a moment at which to commemorate those scholars and campaigners who provided the impetus for this change. 

The University is holding a number of events to mark the year and these may be found here.

Click here to watch a short film about the centenary of formal admission of women in University of Oxford.



New BAME Law Scholarship Announced

Students studying in the LibraryWe are delighted to announce a new graduate scholarship for UK Black, Asian and ethnic minority doctoral candidates in Law, in collaboration with the Faculty of Law. This scholarship will provide full home fees and maintenance for three years, and will be available to D.Phil. candidates from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds starting their degrees at Christ Church in October 2021. 

The Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson, said: “At Christ Church we are committed to increasing diversity and inclusivity. We believe this new scholarship is an excellent example of how we are putting this commitment into action. We hope this grant will encourage more bright young people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds to apply to study at Christ Church.”

Professor Anne Davies, Dean of the Faculty of Law, said: “I’m delighted that we have been able to create these targeted scholarships and I would like to thank our partner colleges for pooling their resources with ours. In creating these funding opportunities, we are acknowledging that the student body across the University is not as diverse as it should be, and we are investing in the future of academia.”

This new graduate scholarship forms part of our commitment to diversity. Over the summer, Christ Church partnered with equality experts Challenge Consultancy to identify positive steps to take in respect of promoting racial inclusivity in particular across the College, whilst also continuing to find new ways to foster diversity of all kinds. 


Black History Month at Christ Church

Giulia da Cruz, JCR President

Black History Month flag flying in Peckwater QuadThis Black History Month, in a collaboration with the Censors, the JCR created a series of panel discussions, walking tours, and screenings to recognise and highlight the invaluable contributions that the Black community has made to our society.
Undergraduate Sarina Chandaria talks about our first event of the month: "The 'Uncomfortable Oxford’ walking tour was a unique and insightful opportunity to re-frame and complicate an environment and institution that I encounter every day. It was much less a tour, than a walking discussion punctuated with historical details and probing questions by our guide, that had a focus on fostering an active response to the uncomfortable histories, architectures and geographies of Oxford.’ 
We also organised an online speaker series open to all members who work or study at the House to learn about and discuss different aspects of Black history. We first hosted Christ Church tutors Professor Jennifer Yee, Dr Sophie Duncan and Professor Alex Vasudevan on a panel to talk about how Black representation and history intersects with their own areas of research. The following week we welcomed back Christ Church alumna Dr Miranda Kaufmann for a discussion. 

Christ Church alumna Matilda Hadcock (2017) described the event: “The panel was led by two Christ Church history first-years, Gracie Oddie-James and Darian Murray-Griffiths, who asked questions on the ways in which history is taught and the resources available for pursuing an interest in Black History. Dr Kaufmann emphasised the importance of language which de-commodifies and sensitises the study of colonialism and enslavement, such as using terms like ‘enslaved’ and ‘trafficking of enslaved humans’ rather than ‘slaves' and the ‘slave trade’.”

We are only half-way through our series of speakers and are looking forward to hosting Patrick Vernon OBE and Dr Angelina Osbourne to talk about their latest book, 100 Great Black Britons, and Dr Dexnell Peters’ presentation on ‘Race and Politics in the Greater Caribbean during the Revolutionary Era' in the coming weeks.


Judith Curthoys: Cows and Curates

Archivist Judith CurthoysBook cover: 'Cows and Curates'Cows and Curates: The Story of the Land and Livings of Christ Church, Oxford, the latest book by Judith Curthoys, College Archivist & Library Manager, is now available in Christ Church Online Shop.

This is the fourth book in the archivist’s ‘Christ Church Saga’: The Cardinal’s College was published in 2012, recounting the history of the college; in 2017, The Stones of Christ Church told the story of its buildings; and, in 2019, The King’s Cathedral looked at the development of the ecclesiastical foundation from its earliest days as a small priory founded by Frideswide to its role as the diocesan seat in the 21st century.

Cow and Curates, as well as Judith's previous books, are now available in Christ Church online shop. Old Members enjoy discounted rate when purchasing Judith's books in Christ Church online shop, or the Shop in Christ Church Meadow.

Promotional information about The Cardinal's College, and The Stones of Christ Church

Promotional information about The King's Cathedral

To visit the online shop, please click here.


New Oxford Book on Global Challenges in Water

Professor Simon DadsonRapid climate and environmental change, and a growing global population make sustainable water management a “defining challenge for the twenty-first century”.

A new book published earlier this year draws together voices from Oxford’s Water Science, Policy and Management programme, with the aim of advancing scientific understandings, and identifying policy priorities, challenges and opportunities for water management, now and into the future.

Book cover: Water Science, Policy, and ManagementWater Science, Policy and Management: A Global Challenge, published by Wiley-Blackwell, marks 15 years of Oxford University’s flagship water MSc.  Edited and written by some of the leading academics; including Professor Simon Dadson, Official Student and Tutor in Geography at Christ Church, and University Lecturer in Physical Geography; writing alongside course alumni now working in academia, government, NGOs, commerce and industry; the volume forms an important part of Oxford’s agenda-setting contribution to the field.

The book presents critical views on the monitoring and modelling of hydrological processes; the rural water policy in Africa and Asia; the political economy of wastewater in Europe; drought policy management and water allocation. It also examines the financing of water infrastructure; the value of wastewater; water resource planning; sustainable urban water supply and the human right to water.

Click here to order Water Science, Policy and Management: A Global Challenge.



OX1 Incubator

OX1 Incubator is Oxford’s first start-up incubator programme, designed by student entrepreneurs, for student entrepreneurs, which does not take any equity or IP. It supports students who wish to develop a start-up from the idea stage to the first round of funding, and was started in 2018 by two students. They had three goals: provide a platform for building start-ups at university, nurture aspiring entrepreneurial talent, and raise awareness of entrepreneurship as a career path. 

OX1 Incubator participants receiving a donation from a sponsorThe incubator provides various workshops, keynote speeches, and mentorship programmes throughout the year, and awards grants for winning teams at a Demo Day, where a panel of investors, CEOs, and members of the Oxford entrepreneurship community judge the teams, and award prizes. OX1 Incubator plays an integral role in the start-up ecosystem at Oxford, filling in the gap for students looking to begin their journey into entrepreneurship, and providing end-to-end support for these start-ups in their early stages.

In the two years the incubator has been running, it has awarded over £22,000 in equity-free support, created over 40 jobs through its start-ups, supported 13 ventures, and enabled over 40 student founders. 75% of start-ups have continued past OX1, and the past cohorts have had an impressive 40:60 undergraduate-postgraduate level of engagement. 

Ollie Branston, Christ Church member of the OX1 committeePhoebe Hennell, Christ Church member of the OX1 committeeFour members of the current committee are students at Christ Church: Jack Chong (2nd year, studying PPE), Ollie Branston (2nd year, studying psychology), Phoebe Hennell (3rd year, studying philosophy and modern Greek), and Ethan Andrews (2nd year, studying English Language and Literature). Jack Chong is the current president of OX1 Incubator, and last year won over £10,000 in grants at the OX1 Demo Day for his winning team’s start-up Level Up, an adaptive MMORPG for K-12 education.

OX1 Incubator is entirely funded through the generous philanthropy of its supporters and corporate partners. The vast majority of financial support goes to the grants awarded every year at the Demo Day, which total at around £20,000. In the past, some prizes have been named after sponsors, and other supporters of the incubator have offered mentorship to students. OX1 Incubator is run entirely by student volunteers who commit around 10 hours a week of their own time, and so expenses are low; last year, they came to just under £1000. 

If any Christ Church alumni, or Friends of Christ Church, would like to find out more, or help the OX1 Incubator with sponsorship or mentoring, please contact Simon Offen, Deputy Director of Development.

Follow OX1 Incubator on Facebook and check out their latest events.


The Christ Church Music Trust: Choristers and Clerks Take Their Place in the Stalls

Choristers in the Cathedral stalls On Saturday 10th October the Christ Church Cathedral Choir celebrated the installation of new lay clerks and choristers. This event was livestreamed on YouTube and can be re-watched here.

We send our best wishes to the new lay clerks and choristers! Moreover, we look forward to a wonderful year of music-making as we continue the House's tradition of musical excellence even through these challenging times.

Click here to read more about the new choristers and clerks.


Emily's Wine Blog

Buttery Manager Emily RobothamSometimes you just think: Churchill, sort your life out

I thought I was going to miss the Freshers entirely this year. Usually, my favourite part of October is overhearing snippets of conversations as these clever, young people get to know each other. A lot of it is half-baked: a sophisticated defence of Molly-Mae from Love Island will be followed by something not quite coherent about Winston Churchill. But this Michaelmas, such conversations in-person are especially precious. 

In our current set-up, the students are physically distanced from us and each other. In the bar, they have to wear a mask until seated, but at that point they can remove their mask and sit beside (albeit at 2m distance) someone from a different household bubble. With the JCR closed, this is the only place in college the students can really have those formative chats, exposing themselves to new ideas and making friends beyond their balloted staircase bubble. 

We largely serve Christ Church Ale, our amber ale brewed by Shotover Brewery, and mulled wine (secret ingredients: ginger wine and Calvados). The bar has moved out into the Masters Garden for ventilation; while the weather is clement, students can sip their drinks and watch the setting sun hit Magdalen Tower above the autumnal splendour of John James’ garden. Winter should arrive at a social distance from the heaters and jazz trio. It’s not all bad, really. 


Professor Jack Paton, Emeritus Student and Former Tutor in Physics (1969)

Professor Jack PatonWe are sorry to inform you that Jack Paton passed away on the 2nd October 2020.

Professor David Nowell writes: “After an undergraduate degree from St Andrews, Jack studied for his PhD in Rudolph Peierls’s theoretical physics group at Birmingham.  He spent some time as a postdoc in Princeton and at the Rutherford Lab before coming to Oxford in 1968 as a University Lecturer and Official Student at Christ Church. He was a dedicated tutor, and proved an inspiration to his students. 

Alongside his passion for physics, he will also be remembered for his genuine pastoral concern.  His unassuming and gentle personality made him approachable and very much a listener.  Jack’s research in theoretical physics included the area of string theory, and the concept of Chan-Paton factors is (apparently) familiar to those who work in the field.

My own memories of Jack as a colleague in Christ Church over a period of nearly twenty years are of an immensely kind man, who treated those he encountered with a real personal interest.  He served on the interview panel which appointed me to my own Official Studentship in 1988 and he was one of the first to congratulate me when we passed in the street a few weeks afterwards.

Jack was an active Tutor for Admissions and helped to broaden the range of applicants by engaging with a range of University and other initiatives.  Towards the end of his career, Jack served as Junior and Senior Censor.  He did so with a combination of wisdom, gentle humour and efficiency which served as a model for those that followed.  Our thoughts are very much with his widow Renée and the family."

Reminiscences of Jack Paton as senior physics tutor at Christ Church by Alan Merchant (College Lecturer in Physics, since 1996)

I first came across Jack Paton in 1975 when attending his 3rd year undergraduate theory option lectures on classical mechanics, subsequently met him regularly in Theoretical Physics when I was a graduate student and post-doc there, and became his teaching colleague at Christ Church on being appointed College Lecturer in 1996. He was a softly spoken, genial and thoroughly efficient senior physics tutor who took the teaching and pastoral care of his undergraduates very seriously and worked particularly hard at admissions to treat everybody fairly and leave all candidates feeling that they had been given a fair hearing.

Given present circumstances I hesitate to say that Jack worked in challenging times, but he did have to oversee the upheaval of the physics course from a three-year B.A. degree to a four-year M.Phys. with the possibilities of transfer to and from a parallel-running modified three-year B.A. This meant, at the peak of confusion, that physics was holding “finals” examinations in Hilary term of the third year so that there was a clearly visible bifurcation of the paths taken by the 3-year and 4-year cohorts in the following Trinity term. Jack managed this with aplomb and gave valuable advice to many who were unsure of which course would suit them best. The courses have now stabilised and we have a more rational treatment of the third year and public physics examinations for each of the four years at the end of Trinity in all cases.

One year Jack (and Derek Stacey) lectured on Peter Lampl’s summer physics school in Oxford, and made such a positive impression that they generated a bumper crop of high-quality applicants for Christ Church, many of whom were admitted and matriculated in 1998. Jack told me that at one time or another he had taught tutorials in every subject of the physics syllabus, including condensed matter physics and electronics – quite an achievement for a theoretical high energy specialist.

Jack was an ever-reliable colleague and staunch supporter of Christ Church with an overriding sense of duty. He would often assign courses to his juniors that were within their comfort zones, while taking on the tougher assignments himself. Then, as retirement approached, in an era when scientists were generally smart enough to avoid such travails, he took on the role of junior then senior censor and navigated safely through the four-year stint.

He was a keen amateur pianist and kept a piano in his College room, although I am not sure of the extent to which it may have been an active prop in tutorials. The esteem in which he was held by his undergraduates was evident from the large number who came back to Christ Church and filled the Freind room for his retirement party in 2002. Amongst other gifts on this occasion, Jack was given sheet music of the Debussy preludes – quite a challenge given their technical and interpretational difficulty to which he dedicated many hours of his retirement.

Jack was a proud scot, although of the modern, lowland, non-kilt-wearing variety. I remember him being astounded that a physics candidate from Carlisle (yes, I am thinking of you, Tom Walker) confessed in his interview that he had never been to Scotland. The Sassenach was nevertheless admitted and went on to get a First, but I am not sure if he heard or appreciated Jack’s rendition of the opening verse of “Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled” at his Schools dinner.

One of my final memories of Jack is from a Gaudy where one of his students asked him if he remembered a tutorial where he had grown so frustrated with his companion’s failure to classify a particular matrix that he had stood on his head to give him a clue that it was an inversion matrix. Jack claimed to have no recollection of this incident, but as we headed to dinner and were poring over seating plans, he held out his copy and said, “oh look, mine’s upside down”. I duly accepted his assist and tapped into the open goal, by telling him in that case he would just have to stand on his head if he wanted to read it. He gave me a wry smile, which I took to be an admission that perhaps he had once stood on his head in a tutorial to get his point across to a flailing undergraduate.

A short appreciation of Jack’s career and work in theoretical physics can be found here. 


News from Alumni

Esteban Boj Garcia: 'The Drivers of Water'

Photograph of Esteban Boj Garcia by one of the fresh water tankersEsteban Boj Garcia (2017) put together a micro-documentary, 'Los conductores del agua - The Drivers of Water',  about the impacts of climate change in accessing water in the city of Morelia (Mexico), based on his MSc dissertation research fieldwork. The micro-documentary was selected as a finalist in the 'We Art Water' International Water Shortfilm Festival.

The central theme of the short film is the differential access to drinking water in the context of climate change. This is a common challenge in many cities in the Global South. The action of the short film takes place in the city of Morelia, Mexico.

In Morelia, factors such as mismanagement and overexploitation of water resources, accelerated and unplanned urbanization, and climate change are contributing to water becoming increasingly scarce. Morelia's Drinking Water, Sewerage and Sanitation Utility (OOAPAS) is not able to supply enough good quality water to the population to satisfy the demand for water, which in practice means a very insufficient, insecure and intermittent water supply service. As a consequence, many families and a large number of businesses in Morelia are forced every day to buy water from pipas (tanker trucks) to more than 300 piperos (tanker drivers). Due to the high cost of tanker water, a large part of the population cannot access water by this means either, so the poorest often fail to fulfill their human right to water. On the other hand, supplying water through water tankers does not guarantee safe access to water even for those who can afford it.

Climate change is a global phenomenon, but it does not affect us all equally. It affects most those who cannot safely access enough good quality water. Therefore, it is to be expected that climate change will exacerbate the inequalities that already exist in our society. In this situation, it is necessary to rethink how we can achieve safe access to drinking water that allows the entire population to have enough water to face climate change.

Click here to watch Esteban's video. 


Richard Crowder: Détente: The Chance to End the Cold War

Last month’s edition described the first book by Richard Crowder (1992) - Aftermath: The Makers of the Postwar World (I B Tauris, 2015) – covering the onset of the Cold War in the 1940s.

Photograph of Richard CrowderThe sequel published this year – Détente: The Chance to End the Cold War(I B Tauris 2020) - picks up the story twenty years later, with the phase between 1968 and 1975.  Over these years, American President Richard Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev tried to ease tensions, with the stated goal of fostering a more peaceful co-existence between the superpowers.

The book opens in August 1968, when Brezhnev reluctantly sent Soviet tanks to quell the so-called Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia.  In the same week, the Democratic Party convention in Chicago broke down amidst mass protest against the Vietnam War.  Both events set the scene for a new phase.  While Brezhnev had shored up dominion over Eastern Europe, he feared the cost of confrontation would be internal political and economic strain for the Soviet Union.  And, in America, the Republican Nixon was elected to the White House, pledging to secure peace without capitulation in Vietnam.

President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Dr Henry Kissinger, 1972. Image credit: White House Photo CollectionOver the next few years, both men groped their way towards a new relationship – for which Brezhnev coined the French word “détente”, or an easing of tension (coincidentally his predecessor Nikita Khrushchev used a similar image with John F Kennedy at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when he warned of both men pulling ever tighter on a knotted rope between them).  Nixon and adviser Henry Kissinger plotted different strands of an accommodation between East and West – over nuclear weapons, the divided status of Berlin, Vietnam, and the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.  Nixon’s visit to China in February 1972 opened up a new flank, as the United States sought to cement the division between Moscow and Beijing which had emerged in the 1960s, and create a new opening for China on the world stage.  This was diplomatic statecraft of the highest order, if at times devious and secretive too.

It was a time of change in a wider sense.   As the post-war “baby boomers” came of age, young people across the world were challenging the attitudes and thinking of a previous generation.  Race riots in the United States, student protests in France or the Cultural Revolution in China were all manifestations of a desire to see new values overthrow tradition.  Views about politics, authority, sex, drugs and identity were shifting, with consequences that continue to play out in our own era.

Détente failed.  Nixon’s demise over the Watergate Affair was partly to blame, along with the oil crisis in 1973, which threw western economies into disarray, and gave Moscow an unexpected boost from higher oil revenues.  Arguably, though, the underlying tensions were as much moral as economic or political.  Inside the Soviet Union, dissidents Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov offered a powerful critique against accommodation, which was picked up in the west, including by presidential contender Ronald Reagan.  By the late 1970s, confrontation was back in vogue, with momentous consequences.  The Cold War was eventually to end not in peaceful coexistence, but the collapse of one of the superpowers – leaving a more complex and bitter legacy.

Book cover: Détente: The Chance to End the Cold WarDétente has received less attention than other periods of the Cold War.  As with Aftermath, Crowder brings the era to life, weaving together different episodes which take us into the human moments of diplomacy.  Thus we see Brezhnev fretting with his Politburo colleagues over how to ensure that Nixon enjoys a more lavish reception in Moscow than Beijing, or Nixon confiding his worries about Vietnam to the preacher Billy Graham over a late-night phonecall (one of many glimpses afforded by the secret tape-recordings Nixon made in the White House).  Anatoly Dobrynin, the wily veteran who served as Soviet ambassador in Washington from Kennedy to Reagan, is driven to despair by late-night calls over the new secure phoneline to the Kremlin installed on the eve of Brezhnev’s visit in 1973.  Al Haig, the US Army officer who served as deputy to Kissinger and then White House Chief of Staff, snatches a hasty lunch of fries and Pepsi at his desk as he and speechwriter Ray Price draft the script Nixon will use to announce his resignation over Watergate.

Détente depicts a more complex and conflicted era than Aftermath.  Instead of statesmen such as Dean Acheson or Ernie Bevin, who laid the foundations for a liberal postwar order based on freedom and democracy, we see a greyer world, of flawed men who combined honourable goals with low politics and relentless ambition.  Readers will not be surprised to find much amidst their achievements, and their failures, which resonates in our own uneasy times.


Stephen Clarke (1978): The Spy Who Inspired Me

Book cover: The Spy Who Inspired MeThe Spy Who Inspired Me imagines someone very (but for legal reasons not exactly) like Ian Fleming undertaking a spy mission in April 1944 in Occupied France.

The real Fleming was a bit of an armchair naval officer and what used to be known as a “lady killer”. In the novel, the main male character, Ian Lemming (yes, apologies) has to work with a real lady killer – as in a female capable of inflicting death on the enemy. And he finds it all very unladylike.

He gets bullied across northern France and into Paris by a younger but highly experienced and ruthless female secret agent. To cope with the trauma, he starts fantasising about a suave male spy who would lord it over the ladies while enjoying a lifestyle that includes everything that a secret agent in Occupied France had to do without – champagne, clean underwear, an actual bed

It’s a tribute to the real women who went undercover to hook up with the Resistance in WW2, as well as a mischievous attempt at a new creation myth for a famous fictional spy.

The Spy Who Inspired Me is published on 12 November by pAf.

Click here to pre-order The Spy Who Inspired Me.


Dr Matthew Thomas: Paul's "Works of the Law" in the Perspective of Second-Century Reception

Book cover: Paul's "Works of the Law"Dr Matthew Thomas (2013), Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies of Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, obtained his D.Phil in 2016 and his dissertation went on to be published by Mohr Siebeck in 2018.

In the same year, the book Paul's "Works of the Law" in the Perspective of Second-Century Reception has won the "Jesus Creed Book of the Year" award from the biblical scholar Scot McKnight. It has since been purchased by Intervarsity Press for a new edition. Alister McGrath, Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre and Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford, wrote a new foreword for the book, which says: "Dr Thomas's work is a landmark in historical scholarship, which no interpreter of Paul should be allowed to overlook".

'Paul writes that we are justified by faith apart from "works of the law," a disputed term that represents a fault line between "old" and "new" perspectives on Paul. Was the apostle reacting against the Jews' good works done to earn salvation, or the Mosaic law's practices that identified the Jewish people?

Dr Matthew Thomas examines how Paul's second-century readers understood these points in conflict, how their readings relate to "old" and "new" perspectives, and what their collective witness suggests about the apostle's own meaning. Surprisingly, these early witnesses align closely with the "new" perspective, though their reasoning often differs from both modern viewpoints. They suggest that Paul opposes these works neither due to moralism, nor primarily for experiential or social reasons, but because the promised new law and covenant, which are transformative and universal in scope, have come in Christ.'

Click here to order Paul's "Works of the Law" in the Perspective of Second-Century Reception.


Tom Winnifrith (1956)

Book cover: Nobody's Kingdom - A History of Northern Albania by Tom WinnifrithTo mark the death of Tom Winnifrith (1956) we copy below an appreciation of his life from the forward to Tom’s last book, by James Pettifer, of St Cross College.

Tom Winnifrith was born into an English professional family with a long tradition of public service and involvement in the main institutions of the state that were bequeathed by the Victorians to their twentieth century successors. Close relatives served in the Anglican Church, Churchill’s Cabinet Rooms in the Second World War and in education.  As a child he grew up in Dulwich,in south west London, after his birth there in 1938, and soon showed considerable academic promise as a boy. He attended Tonbridge School in Kent between 1951 and 1956, before gaining a place to read Classics, Literae Humaniores, at Christ Church Oxford where he studied between 1956 and 1960. His family had a long connection with the College where he joined the Labour club and excelled in the literature and ancient history parts of the syllabus.

Winnifrith’s main intellectual influence and someone who was to play a key role determining the direction of his later academic research and writing on the Vlachs in the Balkan Mountains was Christ Church classics tutor and University Lecturer in Roman History Eric Grey. Grey was a Philhellene who spoke good modern Greek and in World War II had been attached to the Greek ELAS andartes in the Arcadia region of the Peloponnese in mainland southern Greece. Grey’s gripping descriptions of mountain warfare and the nature of Greek rural society before the Civil War inspired the young student to visit the region.

Nowadays Winnifrith would probably have stayed in Oxford to do post-graduate work but in his circumstances at the time an occupation beckoned, and after a period trying school teaching in London from 1961 he was appointed to a post in Eton College to teach classics where he remained until 1967   This took place in the last days of the traditional classical syllabus in major public schools, and when he was appointed Eton had over thirty staff teaching classics and associated subjects. A major reform was instituted by the then Headmaster Antony Chenevix-Trench in the mid-1960’s and Winnifrith who had always been an avid reader of English literature transferred to teaching a mixture of Classics and English. School holidays, in the days when public school teaching had many fewer responsibilities than nowadays took him to exploring Italy and Greece, until the onset of the Greek Colonels junta after the coup in 1967 reined in his travel and exploration. In 1966 he moved from Eton to a research post at Liverpool University where he stayed for three years, and as the William Noble Fellow in English also completed his PhD on the Bronte sisters as novelists. In 1970 he made a move to the newly developing Department of Comparative Literature at Warwick University, where he remained until he retired in 1998. In the earlier part of that period, he finished his first book ‘The Brontes and their Background., and for a time became very active in the Bronte Society before becoming disillusioned by the intractable conflicts in that organisation.

When democracy returned to Greece after 1974 he concentrated his research in the northern mountains, encountering numerous Vlach pastoralists who then were still living according to ancient transhumance traditions. He became fascinated, as a serious Latinist, by the roots of their language, and began to teach himself Vlach, so following his nineteenth century inspiration, Gustav Weigand. It was many years since the Edwardian scholars Wace and Thompson had laid the foundations of Vlach scholarship in Britain, and much had changed in the Vlach world in northern Greece and the neighbouring countries since then but little had been published about it. His research in this period, before the end of the Cold War and almost exclusively in far northern Greece was brought together in his first ‘Balkan’ book  ‘The Vlachs. The History of a Balkan People’, a pithy and engaging study saturated with classical  knowledge that cast light into an area of Greek life that up until then had only been the academic terrain of anthropologists like John Campbell, who had little sustained interest in the Vlachs.   His sections on the Vlachs in late antiquity and their relationships to Byzantium were ground breaking in their time.

The end of the Cold War in 1990 and the opening up of Albania and Yugoslav Macedonia to reasonably easy (if uncomfortable ) travel and research led Winnifrith to explore the Vlach presence in first southern and then northern Albania, and in what was then south-west Yugoslavia.. He brought together various experts on Albania in an edited book ‘Perspectives on Albania’, and then published his own ‘Shattered Eagles, Balkan Fragments’, with  seminal papers focussed on the region such as ‘Minorities in the Prilep-Bitola Area’, and ‘Albania and the Ottoman Empire’. In the chaos of the time in both countries after the independence referendum in Skopje in September 1991, and with the ex-Yugoslav wars not far away to the north, Winnifrith was a resourceful and active traveller into old age, willing to rough it in order to speak to the people on the ground in the often remote localities. He was a great admirer of Nicholas Hammond’s scholarly researches that embodied practical fieldwork, particularly his pre-World War II study of ancient and modern Epirus, with Frank Walbank, and both had common forebears in classical human geography in  Strabo, Procopius ( in his study of Justinian’s buildings) and Pausanias.  He stood for the centrality of antiquarianism and the subjective factor in Balkan history research, and was often a critic of some academic historians of the modern Balkans.     

The end of the Cold War in 1990 and the following Yugoslav conflicts also brought new research priorities. The explosive questions of Balkan minority rights and associated nationalism immediately came into focus, and Winnifrith spoke at a notable conference on the subject at St Antony’s College, Oxford, in 1992, which was also where we first met. The political identity of the Vlachs had long been uncertain and their loyalty divided largely between Greece and Romania. Mainstream Greek historiography saw the Vlachs as Greeks, Romanian historians viewed the Vlachs as Romanians, and it is this conflict that has defined the recent history of the Vlachs.  Winnifrith became involved with a new movement among the Vlach diaspora in the United States that rejected this Manichean approach and asked why the Vlachs could not simply define themselves as Vlachs, regardless of the nation-state they happened to find themselves in or pledge loyalty to. Tom was presented with a Mayoral Proclamation of “Vlach Cultural Awareness Day” in New York City in honour of his visit and in the ensuing years contributed many articles to the Newsletter of the Society Farsarotul, a membership publication of the oldest and largest Vlach association in the US. As a traditional classicist and Hellenist, Winnifrith was soon faced, as many other scholars were, with profound dilemmas about the emergence of a new Macedonian national entity in the region, and this is also reflected in his work at the time. As a moderate socialist veering towards liberalism in his personal outlook, he sympathised with many of the real achievements in areas such as health, public transport, literacy and education in the ex-Yugoslav republic compared to the absence of social facilities in pre-PASOK mountain Greece, and was concerned to see that as far as possible the peace in both Macedonias, Greek and Yugoslav, was kept and involvement with the conflicts to the north avoided. He became an active supporter of the Friends of Albania humanitarian relief organisation and its journal Besa under the leadership of Primrose Peacock, and an active member of the Anglo-Albanian Society.

In his next book, Badlands, Borderlands. A History of Southern Albania,  Winnifrith returned to familiar terrain. In preparation he spent a good deal of time in the Library of the British School in Athens, drawing in particular on the papers of S.S. Clarke(1897-1924 ) whose fieldwork in the region preceded that of Hammond and Walbank in the early 1920’s and who died an untimely death in a drowning accident at a young age after a brilliant military career in the First World War. Clarke is in many ways the guiding star of this book, or at least his largely forgotten and unpublished materials, and the book ends with Winnifrith’s observation that in terms of field research on the Greek-Albanian border, ‘a new Clarke is still needed for our age’, although many of his friends and colleagues must feel Tom has fulfilled that role very well himself in many areas of Vlach and associated scholarship. He is in some senses, a writer in the tradition of the scholar gypsy of nineteenth century literature, with profound curiosity for the textures and customs of life among a neglected minority living in the complex changing world of the modern Balkans.

Following its publication his activity moved northwards and resulted in the manuscript for this book, Nobody’s Land. A History of Northern Albania. It is a stimulating complex text covering centuries and is northern Albania seen through the eyes of a scholar very learned in the medieval and Byzantine worlds as well as the ancient classics. As a student of modern Albanian history and culture I have learned much from it and I am sure all readers will find the same, and it is best left to speak for itself.

Tom has fought a very brave battle against ill health in his final years after the loss of his much loved wife Helen and I have been fortunate to have been able to help finalise the text in some very minor dimensions and bring it to publication, and enjoy many stimulating, witty and combative dialogues on a  kaleidoscope of topics, from the future of classical studies, the House in the late Fifties, Brexit, the decline of British newspapers, some nightmarish and some wonderful pupils at Eton College, all a rich tapestry of memory and crisp anecdote.


Grattan de Courcy-Wheeler (1966)

Photograph of Grattan de Courcy-WheelerContemporaries will be saddened to hear of the death of Grattan de Courcy-Wheeler. Friends, led by Charles Ponsonby, Adrian Fort and Robert Boyle have written a splendid appreciation of his life. The introduction is below, but should you wish to receive a copy of the full tribute please email development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk.

"Grattan de Courcy Wheeler was a fine example of a type now fast becoming extinct. With genial outlook and attitudes fixed in the mid-20th century, or earlier, and quite unaltered as he moved through his life, he yet was fascinated by, and closely informed about, the trends and details of modern politics: a socialite with an underlying serious purpose to his life."


Other News

Women's 40th Online Celebrations

Lapel badge commemorating 40 Years of Women at the HouseWe would love to hear from all our alumnae about their experiences at the House, and aim to create a collage of photos, images and snippets, and an archive of written reminiscences, for everyone to enjoy at the September 2021 weekend. We cannot promise to return anything sent in so please only send copies to the Development Office at the address below, or digital copies to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk

We will be thanking those who contribute by sending out a special 40th Anniversary lapel badge in return.

40th Anniversary Silk Scarves

Lodge Manager Mandy Roche wearing a 40th Anniversary silk scarfA reminder that our limited-edition 40th Anniversary silk scarf (photo below) can be ordered through the new online shop. To visit the shop please click here.






Poem for the Fortnight

The Lonely Viaduct 
By Professor David Parker (1974)

In the silent railway streets, 

The coal pits no longer open, 

Rainbows drawn on paper sheets, 

Discussion texted not spoken. 


Looking over the lonely viaduct 

Mistletoe, Lawson and Holly on show, 

Reference books lie untouched, 

Hawthorn blossoms, no one will know. 


Great organs here built in wood, 

No longer shall they sound, 

Juniper may flavour our food, 

Yet  no sanctuary is to be found.   


On Laburnum Avenue, they do not eat,  

No Uber, no music, nobody to meet. 


The deserted student streets of Durham


All members of the House are welcome to submit poetry. If you would like your poetry considered for feedback from the judges of our poetry competition, then please send your poems to development.office@chch.ox.ac.ukA poem will be selected every fortnight from St Frideswide's Well and the poet will receive feedback via email. Poems will also be featured on our website.

Alumni Photography

We encourage all alumni and friends to submit photographs to us inspired by the poems featured on our Alumni Poetry Page. Poems and photographs will be collected together in the coming months and will eventually form an online exhibition celebrating alumni creative work. 

To submit your photograph please: