Ward, Professor William Reginald

Emeritus professor of Modern History, University of Durham, and a leading member of the Ecclesiastical History Society, he was born at Chesterfield on 23 March 1925. He has been particularly concerned with the interface between Church and society, as in his Religion and Society in England, 1790-1850 (1972). That work, with its emphasis on the importance of the Sunday School movement, exemplifies his concern with popular religion as against over-concentration on church hierarchies and establishments. His outstanding contributions to Methodist historiography have been his editing of the Bicentennial edition of John Wesley's Journals (1988-99) and of the correspondence of Jabez Bunting (2 vols, 1972 and 1976). His command of German and wide-ranging knowledge of German church history are manifest in his Theology, sociology and politics: the German Protestant social conscience, 1890-1933 (1979). He has consistently sought to set English Methodism in a wider European context, e.g. of traditions like Moravianism and the Pietism of the Halle school. His astringent writing and breadth of intellectual concern have provided a bracing counterblast to any Methodist tendencies to parochialism. He died at Petersfield on 2 October 2010. A collection of his periodical articles, Evangelicalism, Piety and Politics was published posthumously in 2014.

  • John D. Walsh, 'W.R. Ward, Methodist Historian and historian of Methodism', in Epworth Review, 22:3 (September 1995) pp.40-46
  • Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the British Academy, XIII pp.439-62 (2014)