Thomas Arnold (13 June 1795 – 12 June 1842) was an English educator and historian. He was an early supporter of the Broad Church
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christianity, Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation. Adherents of Anglicanism are called ''Anglicans''; t ...

movement. As headmaster of
Rugby School Rugby School is a public school (English independent Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independents (artist group), a group of modernist painters based in the New Hope, Pennsylvania, a ...
from 1828 to 1841, he introduced several reforms that were widely copied by other noted public schools. His reforms redefined standards of masculinity and achievement.

Early life and education

Arnold was born on the
Isle of Wight The Isle of Wight () is a Counties of England, county and the List of islands of England, largest and second-most populous island of England. It is in the English Channel, between two and five miles off the coast of Hampshire, from which it is ...

Isle of Wight
, the son of William Arnold, a
Customs Customs is an authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that u ...
officer, and his wife Martha Delafield. William Arnold was related to the Arnold family of
gentry Gentry (from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Lat ...
from Lowestoft. Thomas was educated at Lord Weymouth's Grammar School,
Warminster Warminster () is a garrison, garrison town and Civil parishes in England, civil parish in western Wiltshire, England, by-passed by the A36 road, A36 (between Salisbury and Bath, Somerset, Bath) and the partly concurrent A350 road (England), A35 ...
, at
Winchester Winchester is a cathedral city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London ...

, and at
Corpus Christi College, Oxford Corpus Christi College (formally, Corpus Christi College in the University of Oxford; informally abbreviated as Corpus or CCC) is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate universit ...
. He excelled in Classics and was made a fellow of Oriel in 1815. He became headmaster of a school in
Laleham Laleham is a village on the River Thames, in the Borough of Spelthorne, approximately west of central London, England. Historically part of the county of Middlesex, it was transferred to Surrey in 1965. Laleham is downriver from Staines-upon-T ...

before moving to Rugby.

Career as an educator

Rugby School

Arnold's appointment to the headship of
Rugby School Rugby School is a public school (English independent Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independents (artist group), a group of modernist painters based in the New Hope, Pennsylvania, a ...
in 1828, after some years as a private tutor, turned the school's fortunes around. His force of character and religious zeal enabled him to make it a model for other public schools and exercise a strong influence on the education system of England. Though he introduced history, mathematics and modern languages, he based his teaching on the
classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European language ...
s. "I assume it as the foundation of all my view of the case, that boys at a public school never will learn to speak or pronounce French well, under any circumstances," and so it would be enough if they could "learn it grammatically as a dead language." Physical science was not taught because, in Arnold's view, "it must either take the chief place in the school curriculum, or it must be left out altogether." Arnold was also opposed to the materialistic tendency of physical science, a view deriving from his Christian idealism. He wrote that "rather than have
physical science Physical science is a branch of natural science Natural science is a Branches of science, branch of science concerned with the description, understanding and prediction of Phenomenon, natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observa ...
the principal thing in my son's mind, I would gladly have him think that the sun went round the earth, and that the stars were so many spangles set in the bright blue firmament. Surely the one thing needful for a Christian and an Englishman to study is Christian and moral and political philosophy." Arnold developed the ''
praepostor Praepostor (sometimes spelt Praepositor) is a term now used chiefly at England, English independent schools, such as Aldenham, Brentwood School, Clifton, Eton, Giggleswick, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Tonbridge and Uppingham as well as at other schoo ...
'' (
prefect Prefect (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...

) system, in which
sixth-form In the education systems of Education in England, England, Education in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland, Education in Wales, Wales, Education in Jamaica, Jamaica and some other Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth countries, sixth form repre ...
students were given powers over every part of the school (managed by himself) and kept order in the establishment. The 1857 novel by
Thomas Hughes Thomas Hughes (20 October 182222 March 1896) was an English lawyer, judge, politician and author. He is most famous for his novel ''Tom Brown's School Days ''Tom Brown's School Days'' (sometimes written ''Tom Brown's Schooldays'', also ...
, ''
Tom Brown's School Days ''Tom Brown's School Days'' (sometimes written ''Tom Brown's Schooldays'', also published under the titles ''Tom Brown at Rugby'', ''School Days at Rugby'', and ''Tom Brown's School Days at Rugby'') is an 1857 novel by Thomas Hughes Thoma ...
'' portrays a generation of boys "who feared the Doctor with all our hearts, and very little besides in heaven or earth; who thought more of our sets in the School than of the Church of Christ, and put the traditions of Rugby and the public opinion of boys in our daily life above the laws of God." Arnold was no great enthusiast for sport, which was permitted only as an alternative to poaching or fighting with local boys and did not become part of Rugby's curriculum until 1850. He described his educational aims as being the cure of souls first, moral development second, and intellectual development third. However, this did not prevent Baron de Coubertin from considering him the father of the organized sport he admired when he visited English public schools, including Rugby in 1886. When looking at Arnold's tomb in the school chapel he recalled that he felt suddenly as if he were looking on "the very cornerstone of the British empire". Coubertin is thought to have exaggerated the importance of sport to Thomas Arnold, whom he viewed as "one of the founders of athletic chivalry". The character-forming influence of sport, with which Coubertin was so impressed, is more likely to have originated in the novel ''Tom Brown's School Days'' than exclusively in the ideas of Arnold himself. "Thomas Arnold, the leader and classic model of English educators," wrote Coubertin, "gave the precise formula for the role of athletics in education. The cause was quickly won. Playing fields sprang up all over England."''Physical exercises in the modern world''. Lecture given at the Sorbonne, November 1892.

Oxford University

Arnold was involved in not a few controversies, educational and religious. As a churchman he was a decided
Erastian Thomas Erastus (original surname Lüber, Lieber, or Liebler; September 7, 1524December 31, 1583) was a Swiss people, Swiss physician and Calvinist theology, Calvinist theologian. He wrote 100 theses (later reduced to 75) in which he argued that th ...
and strongly opposed to the
High Church The term ''high church'' refers to beliefs and practices of Christian , , and that emphasize formality and resistance to modernisation. Although used in connection with various , the term originated in and has been principally associated with th ...
party. His 1833 ''Principles of Church Reform'' is linked with the beginnings of the Broad Church movement. In 1841, he was appointed
Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford The Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford is a long-established professorial position. Holders of the title have often been Middle Ages, medieval historians. The first appointment was made in 1724. The term "Regius" reflects the ...


Arnold's chief literary works are his unfinished ''History of Rome'' (three volumes, 1838–1842) and his ''Lectures on Modern History''. Far more often read were his five books of sermons, which were admired by a wide circle of pious readers, including Queen Victoria.


Arnold married Mary Penrose, daughter of the Rev. John Penrose of Penryn, Cornwall, Penryn, Cornwall. They had five daughters and five sons, including the poet Matthew Arnold, the literary scholar Tom Arnold (academic), Tom, the author William Delafield Arnold and Edward Penrose Arnold, an inspector of schools.David Hopkinson (1981), ''Edward Penrose Arnold, A Victorian Family Portrait''. One daughter died in infancy. The eldest daughter, Jane Martha, married William Edward Forster. Both enjoyed mountaineering; they climbed Mont Blanc in 1859 and in 1860 Jane was one of the first women to stand on the summit of Monte Rosa, which had not been climbed by a woman until 1857. When William Delafield Arnold died in 1859 leaving four orphans, the Forsters adopted them as their own, adding their name to the children's surname. One of them was Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster, a Liberal Unionist MP, who eventually became a member of Arthur Balfour, Balfour's cabinet. Another was Florence Vere O'Brien, a diarist, philanthropist and craftswoman who lived in Ireland. Frances Bunsen Trevenen Whateley Arnold, the youngest daughter, never married and died at Fox How in 1923. Arnold had bought the small estate of Fox How near Ambleside in the Lake District in 1832, and spent many holidays there. On 12 June 1842 he died there suddenly of a heart attack "at the height of his powers", a day before his 47th birthday. He is buried in Rugby School chapel. Thomas the Younger's daughter Mary Augusta Arnold, became a well-known novelist under her married name, Mrs. Humphry Ward. His other daughter, Julia, married Leonard Huxley (writer), Leonard Huxley, the son of Thomas Huxley. Their sons were Julian Huxley, Julian and Aldous Huxley. Julia Arnold founded in 1902 Prior's Field School for girls in Godalming, Surrey.''Prior's Field School – A Century Remembered 1902–2002'' by Margaret Elliott, published by Prior's Field School Trust Ltd, .


''The Life of Doctor Arnold'', published two years after his death by one of Arnold's former pupils, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, is seen as one of the best works of its class in the language and added to his growing reputation. A popular life of Arnold by the novelist Emma Jane Guyton also appeared. In 1896 his bust was unveiled in Westminster Abbey alongside that of his son, Matthew Arnold, Matthew. ''The Times'' asserted, "As much as any who could be named, Arnold helped to form the standard of manly worth by which Englishmen judge and submit to be judged." However, his reputation suffered as one of the ''Eminent Victorians'' in Lytton Strachey's book of that title published in 1918. A more recent public-school headmaster, Michael McCrum of Tonbridge School and Eton College in the 1960s to 1980s, also a churchman and Oxbridge academic (Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Vice-Chancellor), wrote a biography and reappraisal of Arnold in 1991. He had briefly been a master at Rugby and was married to the daughter of another former headmaster. More recently, a biography entitled ''Black Tom'' was written by Terence Copley. Both McCrum and Copley seek to restore some lustre to the Arnold legacy, which had been under attack since Strachey's sardonic appraisal. A. C. Benson once observed of Arnold, "A man who could burst into tears at his own dinner-table on hearing a comparison made between Paul of Tarsus, St. Paul and John the Evangelist, St. John to the detriment of the latter, and beg that the subject might never be mentioned again in his presence, could never have been an ''easy'' companion."J. A. Gere and John Sparrow, eds, ''Geoffrey Madan's Notebooks'', Oxford University Press, 1981.

Depictions on screen

Arnold has been played several times in adaptations of ''
Tom Brown's School Days ''Tom Brown's School Days'' (sometimes written ''Tom Brown's Schooldays'', also published under the titles ''Tom Brown at Rugby'', ''School Days at Rugby'', and ''Tom Brown's School Days at Rugby'') is an 1857 novel by Thomas Hughes Thoma ...
'', including by Cedric Hardwicke, Sir Cedric Hardwicke in the 1940 film version, Robert Newton in the 1951 film version, Iain Cuthbertson in the 1971 television version, and Stephen Fry in the 2005 television version.


*''The Christian Duty of Granting the Claims of the Roman Catholics'' (pamphlet) Rugby, 1828 *''Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Rugby School'', London: Fellowes, 1850 (first edition, 1832) *''Principles of Church Reform'', Oxford: Fellowes,1833 *''History of Rome'', London: Fellowes, 1838 *''Introductory Lectures on Modern History'', London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1842 *''Sermons: Christian Life, its Hopes, Fears and Close'', London: Fellowes, 1842 *''Sermons: Christian Life, its Course'', London: Fellowes, 1844 *As translator: ''The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides'', (3 vols.) London: Fellowes, 1845 *''The Interpretation of Scripture'', London: Fellowes, 1845


Further reading

** *Terrence Copley, ''Black Tom: Arnold of Rugby: The Myth and the Man'', New York: Continuum, 2002 *Heather Ellis, "Thomas Arnold, Christian Manliness and the Problem of Boyhood' ''Journal of Victorian Culture'', 2014, 19#3, pp. 425–44
*Giorgia Grilli, "English public schools and the moulding of the'Englishman'." ''History of Education & Children's Literature'' 2015, 10.1 *Simon Heffer, ''High minds: the Victorians and the birth of modern Britain'', 2013, pp. 1–30 *Rosemary Jann, ''The Art and Science of Victorian History'', 1985, pp. 1–3
online free
*Michael McCrum, ''Thomas Arnold, Headmaster'', Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989 *Fabrice Neddam, "Constructing Masculinities under Thomas Arnold of Rugby (1828–1842): Gender, Educational Policy and School Life in an Early-Victorian Public School" ''Gender and Education'', 2004, 16#3, pp. 303–326 *Paul M. Puccio, "At the Heart of ''Tom Brown's Schooldays'': Thomas Arnold and Christian Friendship", ''Modern Language Studies'', 1995, pp. 57–74 *Lytton Strachey, ''Eminent Victorians'', (London, 1918)

*Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, ''The life and correspondence of Thomas Arnold, D. D., late head-master of Rugby school and regius professor of modern history in the University of Oxford'' (2 vol. 1877) famous biography by a former student
*Norman Wymer, ''Dr. Arnold of Rugby'' (1953) *William E. Winn, "Tom Brown's Schooldays and the Development of 'Muscular Christianity'" ''Church History'' (1960) 29#1 pp. 64–73

Primary sources

Thomas Arnold, ''Arnold of Rugby: His school life and contributions to education'' (1897

External links

* * * *Archival material at {{DEFAULTSORT:Arnold, Thomas Huxley family Alumni of Corpus Christi College, Oxford Fellows of Oriel College, Oxford 19th-century English Anglican priests Head Masters of Rugby School People from Cowes People educated at Winchester College People educated at Lord Weymouth's Grammar School 1795 births 1842 deaths Regius Professors of History (University of Oxford)