Thomas Arnold


Biography of Thomas Arnold

Dr. Thomas Arnold (13 June 1795 – 12 June 1842) was a British educator and historian. Arnold was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement. He was the headmaster of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841, where he introduced a number of reforms.

Early life and education

Arnold was born on the Isle of Wight, the son of William Arnold, a Customs officer, and his wife Martha Delafield. He was educated at Lord Weymouth's Grammar School, Warminster, Winchester, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. There he excelled at Classics and was made a fellow of Oriel in 1815. He was headmaster of a school in Laleham before moving to Rugby.

Rugby School

Arnold's appointment to the headship of Rugby School in 1828, after some years as a private tutor, turned the school's fortunes around, and his force of character and religious zeal enabled him to turn it into a model followed by the other public schools, exercising an unprecedented influence on the educational system of the country. Though he introduced history, mathematics and modern languages, he based his teaching on the classic languages. "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", so it would be enough if they could "learn it grammatically as a dead language". Physical science was not taught since in Arnold's view, "it must either take the chief place in the school curriculum, or it must be left out altogether".

He developed the Praepostor (prefect) system in which order was kept in the school by the top, sixth, form who were given powers over every part of the school, carefully managed by himself. The novel, Tom Brown's Schooldays 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".

Oxford University

He was involved in many controversies, educational and religious. As a churchman he was a decided Erastian, and strongly opposed to the High Church party. In 1841, he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford. His 1833 Principles of Church Reform is associated with the beginnings of the Broad Church movement.

[Report Error]