Sir William Anson

One of the All Souls Fellows who was especially active in the process of reform was Sir William Anson (Fellow since 1867 and baronet on the death of his father in 1873), who was to become the College's first lay Warden in 1881. He was an outstanding constitutional lawyer and an active Liberal politician, and under his aegis the College developed along two lines: in the direction of the advancement of learning by research and teaching, and towards the production of 'men-of-the-world' with high academic qualifications. He envisaged some of the latter as men who, after serving the state as lawyers, politicians, and administrators, might ultimately be invited to strengthen the governing body of the College as non-stipendiary ('Distinguished') or near-non-stipendiary ('Fifty-pound') Fellows.

The statutes of 1882, as finally agreed with the Commissioners, reflected Anson's views. They preserved the rights of the existing Life Fellows, but ensured that future examination fellowships should terminate after seven years. The marriage restriction was done away with (save for the surviving Life Fellows), as was the limitation of examination candidates to those with first-class degrees or University prizes (few candidates without one or other of these distinctions now offered themselves). In future there were to be twenty-one seven-year examination (or prize) fellowships (two-thirds of them specifically connected with historical and legal studies), up to seven research fellowships, and ten fifty-pound fellowships. There were to be three distinguished fellowships and the three existing professorial fellowships in international law, history, and political economy were increased by the addition of the holders of the Regius Chair of Civil law and the Vinerian Chair of English Law. The College provided financial support for all five chairs and for new readerships in Indian Law and Roman Law (1878 and 1881 respectively).

The new statutes set the tone for the College's development for many years to come. On the academic side, the seven-year examination fellowships offered for competitive entry every September became Oxford's most sought-after prizes and attracted outstanding candidates: for example, the future Lord Curzon (1883) and Archbishop Lang (1888); and in 1897 L.S. Amery and the future Lord Simon were elected, with Ramsay Muir and William Holdsworth as two of the unsuccessful candidates. Two of the Fellows, G.E. Buckle (Fellow, 1877) and Geoffrey Dawson (Fellow, 1898) became successive editors of The Times from 1884 to 1941 (with a hiatus in 1919-23). Such careers chimed well with Warden Anson's conception of the dual role of the College, but the stress since the 1882 statutes has increasingly been on the academic side: the College elected the first of its many Research Fellows (the historian S.R. Gardiner) in 1884.