Obadiah Walker

Obadiah Walker

Obadiah Walker (1616 – 21 January 1699) was an English academic and Master of University College, Oxford from 1676 to 1688.[1][2]



Walker was born at Darfield near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and was educated at University College, Oxford, becoming a fellow and tutor of this College and a prominent figure in University circles. In July 1648, an act of parliament deprived him of his academic appointments, and he passed some years in teaching, studying and travelling. He returned to Oxford at the Restoration of 1660, and a few years began later to take a leading part in the work of University College. In June 1676, he became head or "Master" of the college, and in this capacity he collected money for some rebuilding, and arranged the publication by the college of a Latin edition of Sir John Spelman's Life of Alfred the Great.

This was the time of Titus Oates and the "Popish Plot", and some of Walker's writings made him a suspect; however, no serious steps were taken against him, although Oxford booksellers were forbidden to sell his book, The benefits of our Saviour Jesus Christ to mankind, and he remained a Protestant, in name at least, until the accession of James II. Soon after this event he became a Roman Catholic, and he advised the new king with regard to affairs in Oxford, being partly responsible for the tactless conduct of James in forcing a quarrel with the fellows of Magdalen College. Mass was said in his residence, and later a chapel was opened in the college for Catholic worship; he and others received a royal licence to absent themselves from the services of the Church of England, and he obtained another to supervise the printing of Roman Catholic books.

In spite of growing unpopularity he remained loyal to James, and when the king fled from England, Walker left Oxford, doubtless intending to join his master abroad. But in December 1688 he was arrested at Sittingbourne and was imprisoned; then, having lost his mastership, he was charged at the bar of the House of Commons with changing his religion and with other offences. Early in 1690, he was released from his confinement, and spent his last years subsisting largely on the charity of his friend and former pupil at University College, Dr John Radcliffe.


Walker's principal writings are: Of education, especially of young gentlemen (Oxford, 1673, and six other editions); Ars rationis ad mentem nominalium libri tres (Oxford, 1673); and Greek and Roman History illustrated by Coins and Medals (London, 1692).


  1. ^ Carr, William, University College, Routledge, 1998. ISBN 9780415186322. Chapter VII, From Restoration to Revolution.
  2. ^ Darwall-Smith, Robin, A History of University College, Oxford. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-928429-0. Chapter 10, The Rise and Fall of Obadiah Walker: 1660–1689, pages 183–218

Further reading

  • James J. Murphy, "Obadiah Walker," The Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 281: British Rhetoricians and Logicians, 1500–1660, Second Series, Detroit: Gale, 2003, pp. 334–343.
  • Thomas O. Sloane, "Rhetoric and Meditation: Three Case Studies," Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 1971, pp. 45–58.
  • J. S. Fletcher, "Obadiah Walker," Yorkshiremen of the Restoration, London: Allen & Unwin, 1921, pp. 237–253.
  • A. E. Firth, "Obadiah Walker," University College Record, Oxford, vol. 4, no. 2, 1962, pp. 95–106.

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Richard Clayton
Master of University College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Edward Farrer

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