Oscar Browning was born on 17 January 1837, the son of a distiller. A delicate child, he grew to be a
formidable tough old man, convinced he was destined for greatness but this was marred by a
sensitivity to slights bordering on paranoia. He was educated at Eton, which he found coarse, brutal,
dirty and unloving. Snobbery and homosexuality became entrenched there for life.. He won a
scholarship to King͛s College Cambridge, reading classics gaining a first class degree, and was elected
a Fellow of King͛s in 1859. He was president of the Union in 1859. He taught at Eton from 1860,
where he detested the cult of athleticism. He taught history highly successfully and wished to
change the Eton curriculum so as to educate a ruling elite. His intimate, indiscreet friendship with a
boy not in his boarding house, GN Curzon (later Lord Curzon, politician and viceroy) although
innocent, provoked a crisis and amid national controversy he was dismissed for administrative
inefficiency in 1875, but actually because his influence was thought to be sexually contagious.
He returned to King͛s, helping to expand the college and promoted their intellectual standards,
supporting the nascent historical tripos. He was an innovative tutor, requiring weekly essays from his
students. He became a college lecturer in 1880 and a university lecturer in 1884, a Fellow of the
Royal Historical Society in 1884, and chairman of its council in 1885. For the RHS he edited a number
of volumes of papers in their Camden series. However, much of his writing was superficial,
inaccurate and diffuse. In 1909 he was forcibly superannuated from his lectureship. He was caught in
Italy by the outbreak of war in 1914, and remained at Rome until his death on 6 October 1923.
His publications include
The Despatches of Lord Gower, 1790-1792 (C.U.P., 1885).
Life of George Elliot (Walter Scott, 1890).
The Journal of Sir George Rooke, 1700-1702 (Navy Records Society, 1897)
Memories of Sixty Years at Eton, Cambridge and Elsewhere (1910)
A General History of the World (Edward Arnold, 1913).
Memories of Later Years (1923)
Richard Davenport-Hines, Oscar Browning in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Ian Anstruther Oscar Browning (1983).
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