Anstey, Dr Roger Thomas

Historian, born on 1st February 1927,he was educated at Shrewsbury School and St. John's College, Cambridge, and received a London PhD in 1957. He taught at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria 1952-1957 and at the University of Durham 1958-1966, was Visiting Professor at the University of British Columbia 1966-1967 and from 1968 was Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent at Canterbury. His special interest in the abolition movement led to his book on The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760-1810 (1975). He also wrote on colonial rule in the Congo (Britain and the Congo in the Nineteenth Century (1962) and King Leopold's Legacy: the Congo under Belgian Rule 1908-60 (1966). He served on the connexional Archives and History Committee and from 1976 was European Vice-President of the World Methodist Historical Society. He was held in high regard, in the words of Geoffrey Templeman, the university Vice-Chancellor, 'not only as scholar and teacher of rare quality, but as a man who combined exceptional kindliness with great integrity playing a role in the academic communities in which he lived which was both principled and humane'. He died suddenly at Canterbury on 26 January 1979 and was commemorated by a volume on Anti-Slavery, Religion and Reform (1980) by friends and colleagues and by the endowment of the Anstey Lectures at the University of Kent.

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His sister Mary Ruth Anstey (1921-2014), born in Exeter on 20 October 1921, took a degree in English at Bedford College. She was a missionary in Trichinopoly 1945-1966 and after her return home was India Secretary at MCOD 1966-1974 and then Secretary for Asia and the Middle East with the Conference of Missionary Societies of Great Britain and Ireland. She spent one year at the Board of Missions of the United Methodist Church iin New York. In 1968 she and Pauline Webb were among the very few women attending the fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Uppsala. She died on 1 October 2014.


'Roger lived in the same spiritual world as the evangelical abolitionists. If this meant that he lacked some of the detachment of secular historians, it also gave him unrivaled insights into the historical meaning of sin, redemption, Providence, and retribution. As a mediator and interpreter, with one foot in the world of James Stephen and Wilberforce and the other foot in the world of modern academia, he has enriched our understanding of the abolitionists' motives, perceptions, strategies and contradictions.'

David Brion Davies, in Christine Bolt and Seymour Drescher (eds.) Anti-Slavery, Religion and Reform: Essays in memory of Roger Anstey (1980) pp.14-15

  • Daily Telegraph, 30 January 1979
  • Methodist Recorder, 8 March 1979; 31 October 2014
  • Christine Bolt and Seymour Drescher (eds.) Anti-Slavery, Religion and Reform: Essays in memory of Roger Anstey (1980)