G. W. S. Barrow

Geoffrey Wallis Steuart Barrow FBA, FRSE (28 November 1924 – 14 December 2013) was a Scottish historian and academic.

The son of Charles Embleton Barrow and Marjorie née Stuart, Geoffrey Barrow was born on 28 November 1924, at Headingley near Leeds. He attended St Edward's School, Oxford, and Inverness Royal Academy, moving on to the University of St Andrews and Pembroke College, Oxford.[1]

While still a student at the University of St Andrews he joined the Royal Navy. After basic training he was sent to the Royal Navy Signals School near Petersfield in Hampshire, but he was then offered the chance to go on a Japanese course. He passed an interview in the Admiralty and, as a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, joined the seventh course at the secret Bedford Japanese School run by Captain Oswald Tuck in March 1944 for a six-month course. After completing the course he was sent to the Naval Section at the Government Code and Cypher School, Bletchley Park. He was later sent to H.M.S. Anderson, a naval listening and decoding centre in Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka).[2][3]

He became lecturer in history at University College, London in 1950, remaining there until 1961 when he became professor of medieval history at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and then in 1974, professor of Scottish history at the University of St Andrews. He was Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh from 1979 to 1992.

He began his work by studying the nature of feudalism in Anglo-Norman Britain, but moved on to specialize more thoroughly on Scottish feudalism. His work tended to focus on Normanisation in High Medieval Scotland, especially in reference to governmental institutions.

Personal lifeEdit

He married, in 1951, Heather Elizabeth née Lownie, with whom he had one son and one daughter.[4] His daughter is Julia Barrow, who also became an historian and academic.[5]


Barrow's more notable publications include:


  • Feudal Britain, (London, 1956).
  • Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, (Edinburgh, 1965; 4th edn., 2005).
  • The Kingdom of the Scots, (London, 1973), a collection of his scholarly articles.
  • Editor of The Scottish Tradition, (Edinburgh, 1974).
  • The Anglo-Norman Era in Scottish History, (Oxford, 1980).
  • Kingship and Unity: Scotland, 1000–1306, (London, 1981).
  • Scotland and its Neighbours in the Middle Ages, (London, 1992) – another collection of his scholarly articles.

Editions of textsEdit

  • Editor of Acts of Malcolm IV, 1153–1165, (Edinburgh, 1960) – Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. i.
  • Co-editor (with W.W. Scott) of Acts of William I, 1165–1214 (Edinburgh, 1971) Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol. ii.
  • Editor of The Charters of King David I, (Woodbridge, 1999).


  • Barrow, G.W.S. 'Earls of Fife in the 12th Century', (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1952–53), pp. 51–61.
  • Barrow, G.W.S. 'Religion in Scotland on the eve of Christianity' in Forschungen zur Reichs-, Papst- und Landesgeschichte, ed. Borchardt and Bunz (Stuttgart 1998) 25–32.


  1. ^ David Torrance. "Professor Geoffrey Barrow". obituary. The Herald & Times Group, Glasgow. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  2. ^ George Wallis Steuart Barrow, ‘Autobiographical memoir 1924-1946’ (unpublished)
  3. ^ Peter Kornicki, Captain Oswald Tuck and the Bedford Japanese School, 1942-1945 (London: Pollino Publishing, 2019).
  4. ^ "BARROW – Deaths Announcements". The Daily Telegraph. 14 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
  5. ^ 'BARROW, Prof. Julia Steuart', Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2016; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 27 Sept 2017