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William Albert "Bill" Chaney (December 23, 1922 – March 13, 2013) was an American historian of Anglo-Saxon England who spent his career, from 1952 until his death, teaching at Lawrence University. At various times, he held the George McKendree Steele endowed chair (1962–99) and the chair of the history department (1968–71).

William Chaney
Colour photograph of William Chaney
William Chaney in 2010
William Albert Chaney

(1922-12-23)December 23, 1922
DiedMarch 13, 2013(2013-03-13) (aged 90)
Years active1952–2013
Notable work
The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England (1970)


Early lifeEdit

Chaney was born in Lodi, California, on December 23, 1922.[1] He descended from what one colleague said to be "southerners who had consistently backed the wrong horse in the great conflicts of American history", and he would pretend to shiver and look the other way whenever he walked by a statue of General Sherman on the Lawrence campus.[2] After matriculating at the College of the Pacific he transferred to the University of California, Berkeley.[1] There he completed both his bachelor of arts, and, in 1952 and under Ernst Kantorowicz's advisement, his Ph.D.[1] He was made a fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows early in the 1950s, and in 1966–1967 a grantee in the American Council of Learned Societies.[1]


Chaney spent his entire career at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, arriving at then Lawrence College in 1952.[1] His research interest in Anglo-Saxon England culminated in his 1970 book The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity,[3] and the widely cited 1962 article Grendel and the Gifstol: a Legal View of Monsters.[1][4]


From 1952 to 1999 Chaney held the George McKendree Steele endowed chair in history, and from 1968 to 1971 he was the chair of the history department.[1] He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and affiliated with the American Historical Association, the Modern Language Association, the American Society of Church History, the Conference on British Studies, the American Association of University Professors, and Phi Beta Kappa.[1]


Chaney died on March 13, 2013, at his home in Appleton, Wisconsin.[5]



  • Chaney, William A. (December 1962). "Grendel and the Gifstol: A Legal View of Monsters". PMLA. Modern Language Association. LXXVII (5): 513–520. JSTOR 460400.  
  • Chaney, William A. (1970). The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Chaney, William A. (September 1973). "Church and State in the Middle Ages. By Bennett D. Hill". Church History. American Society of Church History. 42 (3): 424. JSTOR 3164408.  


External linksEdit