Francis Christopher Oakley

Francis Christopher Oakley

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Francis Christopher Oakley, L.H.D., Litt.D., LL.D., is a scholar and professor of medieval history, who additionally served as president of Williams College
Williams College
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this...

 from 1985-1993. Born in Liverpool, England in October, 1931 to Irish immigrants, he remained in Liverpool during the German bomb raids of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 while his older siblings were sent to the countryside. His mother, Siobhan, was a homemaker and his father, Joseph, worked at a local sewing factory.

After receiving his B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 degree from Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, he went on to do graduate work at the University of Toronto
University of Toronto
The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, situated on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada...

's Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. However, before he could pursue his Ph.D.
Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 he had to go back to England to fulfill his mandatory, one-year of military service. He subsequently was admitted to the Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 History Department and received his Ph.D. in 1961.

After teaching history for two years at Yale, Oakley came to Williams College
Williams College
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this...

 (Williamstown, Massachusetts
Williamstown, Massachusetts
Williamstown is a town in Berkshire County, in the northwest corner of Massachusetts. It shares a border with Vermont to the north and New York to the west. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 7,754 at the 2010 census...

) in 1961 as a lecturer in history, then became a full professor in 1970 and Edward Dorr Griffin Professor of the History of Ideas in 1984. Oakley was co-founder in 1969 of the Interdepartmental Program in the History of Ideas, serving as its chair in 1974-76, 1985, and 1989–1990, and was dean of the faculty from 1977 to 1984. He became president of Williams on July 1, 1985 and completed his term of office on December 31, 1993.

A former president of the New England Medieval Conference (1983–84), and currently chairman of the Board of the American Council of Learned Societies
American Council of Learned Societies
The American Council of Learned Societies , founded in 1919, is a private nonprofit federation of seventy scholarly organizations.ACLS is best known as a funder of humanities research through fellowships and grants awards. ACLS Fellowships are designed to permit scholars holding the Ph.D...

, he is the author of numerous books and more than a hundred articles and book reviews on topics in medieval history and higher education. He serves on the editorial boards of The Journal of the History of Ideas and of Orion: Nature Quarterly. In 1986 he was elected Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and, in 1991, Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

In his most recent book, "Empty Bottles of Gentilism" - the first volume in his groundbreaking trilogy on the emergence of western political thought - Oakley explores the roots of secular political thinking by examining the political ideology and institutions of Hellenistic and late Roman antiquity and of the early European Middle Ages. By challenging the popular belief that the ancient Greek and Roman worlds provided the origins of our inherently secular politics, Oakley challenges conventional understanding of the history of political theory in a fundamental way. Grounded in a period of history not much cultivated by historians of political thought, this book lays the foundations for Oakley's next two volumes, which will develop his argument that it is in the Latin Middle Ages that we must seek the ideological roots of modern political secularism.

Other recent books include: "Kingship: The Politics of Enchantment" (2006); "Natural Law, Laws of Nature, Natural Rights: Continuity And Discontinuity in the History of Ideas" (2005); and "The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church 1300-1870" (2004).

He is currently finishing up his trilogy and remains very active in the academic and arts communities. He is married Claire-Ann Lamenzo of Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...

. They have one daughter, Deirdre Oakley, who retained her maiden name and is a sociologist at Georgia State University; as well as three sons including Christopher, an architect in Chicago; Timothy, an executive chief at Disney; and Brian, an environmental financing consultant in Washington, DC.

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