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Vivian Hunter H. Galbraith, FBA (15 December 1889 – 25 November 1976) was an English historian, Fellow of the British Academy and Oxford Regius Professor of Modern History.

Early career

V. H. H. Galbraith was born on 15 December 1889 in Sheffieldmarker, the son of David Galbraith, a secretary at the steelworks in Hadfield, and Eliza Davidson McIntosh. He moved with his family to Londonmarker, and was educated at Highgate Schoolmarker from 1902 to 1906. The family then moved to Manchestermarker, where he attended university from 1907 where, amongst his lecturers were Maurice Powicke, Thomas Frederick Tout and James Tait, with this first hand experience, Galbraith later wrote Tout and Tait's articles for the Dictionary of National Biography. He received a first class in modern history at Manchester Universitymarker in 1910 and won a Brackenbury scholarship to Balliol College, Oxfordmarker. At Oxford, he won the Stanhope prize in 1911 with an essay on the chronicles of St Albansmarker, achieved a third class in literae humaniores in 1913, and a first class in modern history in 1914.

Galbraith became the Langton research fellow at Manchester University and began studying the records of the abbey in Bury St Edmunds. Ater the outbreak of World War I, he enlisted in January 1915 and served as a company commander in the Queen's Regiment and was awarded the awarded the Croix de guerre avec palme for his courage in Palestine in 1917 and France in 1918.

In January 1919, Galbraith resumed the academic life, initially as a temporary lecturer at Manchester, and then continuing with his former research on a renewed Langton research fellowship, whilst living in London. He joined the Public Record Officemarker in January 1921 as an assistant keeper, allowing him daily access to records about English medieval government. At this time he started work on editing an edition of the Anonimalle chronicle of St Mary's, York, published in 1927. In June 1921 he married Georgina Rosalie, daughter of Lyster Cole-Baker MD. She was a medieval historian whom he had met at Manchester.

Return to Oxford

In 1928 Galbraith succeeded Reginald Poole as lecturer in diplomatic and was elected a tutorial fellow of Balliol. Between pursuing his teaching, lecturing, discussion, and golfing he continued working on chronicles and charters, including the St Albans chronicle 1406–20, published in 1937. Before the end of the year, he took up the professorship of history at Edinburgh University, and in 1939 he was elected a fellow of the British Academy, in 1940 he was elected Ford's lecturer.

Galbraith succeeded Albert Frederick Pollard as director of the Institute of Historical Research in 1944. That same year, in his lecture entitled "Good Kings and Bad Kings in Medieval History", he challenged the overall reliance of historians on the chroniclers whose works were often emotional judgments than constructive criticisms of contemporary figures. He concluded that William Rufus and King John were more misrepresented than any other monarch due to conflict with the clerical hierarchy.

In January 1948, Galbraith succeeded Sir Maurice Powicke as Regius Professor of Modern History. He was elected an honorary fellow of Balliol in 1957, and of Orielmarker in 1958.

Galbraith's works include a reappraisal of the purpose of Domesday Book, a series of critically edited texts and translations of medieval sources, his works between 1942 and 1974 resulting in Domesday Book: Its Place in Administrative History, published by Oxford University Press on 23 January 1975. Galbraith took retirement in 1957, and on 25 November 1976 he died at his home, 20A Bradmore Road, Oxford.


  • Southern, R.W., 'Galbraith, Vivian Hunter (1889–1976)', rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Online database article number 31132.

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