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Henry William Carless Davis, CBE, FBA (13 January 1874 - 28 June 1928) was a British historian, editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, and Oxford Regius Professor of Modern History.

Davis was born at Ebley, near Stroud, Gloucestershire, the eldest of five children of Henry Frederick Alexander Davis, a solicitor, and his wife, Jessie Anna. The children were brought up by their mother, who moved to Weymouth in 1884 to open a school for young children including her own, and was successful enough to be appointed first headmistress of Weymouth College preparatory school in 1903. Davis attended Weymouth College from 1886 and went up to Balliol College, Oxford on a Brackenbury history scholarship, where he attained first classes in classical moderations in 1893 and literae humaniores in 1895 as well as the Jenkiyns exhibition. He was elected to a fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, maintaining residence there from 1895 until 1902, and spending time teaching at University College, Bangor between 1896 and 1897. Davis won the Lothian prize in 1897 and was appointed to a lectureship at New College, Oxford and in 1899 exchanged lectureships and moved to Balliol, where on the expiry of his All Souls fellowship in 1902 he was appointed a fellow of Balliol.
In 1899 Davis published Balliol College, a work in the College Histories series, and in 1900, Charlemagne, in the Heroes of the Nations series, as well as articles in the English Historical Review in 1901. In 1903 he published the article The Anarchy of Stephen's Reign in the same journal, which presented the idea that the use of the term 'waste' in the Pipe Rolls indicated a much wider devastation resulting from the Anarchy than previously was thought, fuelling the belief that a great anarchy occurred during Stephen's reign, although the 'waste' theory was later discredited. His first widely regarded book was England under the Normans and Angevins, published in 1905, it became a standard authority and reached a tenth print edition in 1930. It was, however, his only substantial contribution to narrative medieval history. In 1911 he wrote the summary Medieval Europe, in the Home University Library series, but from 1905 was more focused on editorial work, preparing an edition of Benjamin Jowett's translation of Aristotle's Politics, a revision of William Stubbs' Select Charters and starting the calendar of royal charters, Regesta regum Anglo-Normannorum.
His academic presence inspired genuine respect and regard, and his lectures were well attended. Davis was junior dean of Balliol from 1906 until 1910, and an examiner in the final school of modern history between 1907 and 1909, and again from 1919 to 1921 In 1912 Davis married Jennie Rosa, the daughter of Walter Lindup, of Bampton Grange in Oxfordshire. In 1913 he took the Chichele lectureship in foreign history and became a curator of the Bodleian Library in 1914.

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08.12.2013

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