Donald Nicholl, the British historian and renowned theologian, was born on July 23, 1923, into a poor community in Halifax, West Yorkshire. He excelled at academia and won a Brackenbury scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied both philosophy and history. He served in the British Army in World War II among the ranks of the infantry, and afterwards in intelligence, before returning to Oxford in 1946. He converted to Catholicism as a consequence of experiences during the war. The next year, he married Dorothy Tordoff, whom he had known since childhood. Nicholl was a prominent scholar of medieval Welsh, Irish, and Russian, and on them he published books and articles, primarily in fields related to history and religion.
Two years later, Nicholl taught history at the University of Edinburgh (1948-1953), and afterwards he was a professor for twenty years at University College of North Staffordshire. He moved to the University of California, Santa Cruz, to teach religious studies and history, and he served as chair for three years. In 1980, he returned to England and was appointed rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies at Jerusalem (1981-1985). He died of cancer on May 3, 1997, at his home at Betley in Staffordshire. He was an engaging storyteller and remained a Yorkshireman at heart. Nicholl was a brilliant writer who published Holiness (1981), Testing of Hearts (1989), and The Triumphs of the Spirit in Russia (1997), a seminal work on the topic. A collection of his essays, The Beatitude of Truth, was published posthumously.
Donald Nicholl: Academia
- Assistant Lecturer, Edinburgh University (1948-52)
- Lecturer and Reader in History, Keele University (1953-72)
- Professor of History, Keele University (1972-74)
- Professor of History and Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz (1974-80)
- Rector, Ecumenical Institute for Advanced Theological Studies, Tantur (1981-85)
- Senior Research Fellow, Multifaith Centre, Sellyoak, Birmingham (1985-88)
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