St Antony’s College is approaching its 75th anniversary in 2025. From the beginning, it was the most deliberately international of all Oxford colleges.
Founded by Antonin Besse, a French entrepreneur who wanted to establish an international college, St Antony’s opened its doors to students in October 1950 as a centre for postgraduate teaching, specialising in area studies.
Here’s a timeline of key dates:
St Antony’s was founded in 1950 as the result of the gift of Antonin Besse of Aden, a merchant of French descent. Its role was “to be a centre of advanced study and research in the fields of modern international history, philosophy, economics and politics and to provide an international centre within the University where graduate students from all over the world can live and work together in close contact with senior members of the University who are specialists in their fields”. The College opened to its first students in Michaelmas Term 1950.
Artwork from an etching by Joe Winkelman.
The first Warden of the College was Sir William Deakin who was in post from 1950 to 1968. He was a young Oxford academic who in the Second World War became an adventurous soldier and aide to Winston Churchill. He won Antonin Besse’s confidence and played the key role in turning his vision into the centre of excellence that St Antony’s has become.
Portrait by Emma Sergeant
The college coat of arms, granted in 1952, embodies its namesake, Anthony of Egypt, with red symbolising the Red Sea and gold for desert sands. The mullets were borrowed from the founder’s trademark, whilst the T-shaped elements are traditional crosses of St Antony. The heraldic blazon for these arms is “Or on a chevron between three tau crosses gules as many pierced mullets of the field”.
The motto ‘plus est en vous’, meaning ‘there is more in you’ or ‘there is more to you than meets the eye’, often accompanies the shield.
St Antony’s received its Royal Charter on 1 April 1953.
A Supplementary Charter in 1962 was granted to allow the College to admit women as well as men.
In 1963 the College was made a full member of the University.
Sir Raymond Carr, was St Antony’s second Warden, in post from 1968 to 1987. He was a distinguished historian of Spain, and during his tenure, expanded the College and its regional coverage, opening its doors to visiting scholars from all over the world.
Portrait by Matthew Carr.
In 1970, the Hilda Besse building was opened. The social heart of the College, this building still serves its original purpose in housing the college’s dining hall, bar, and common rooms as well as a great number of ancillary meeting rooms.
The 2021 refurbishment of the Hilda Besse Building revitalised its historic charm, reconfigured the space to make it more inclusive and inviting for the college community, and was recognised with an Oxford Preservation Trust award for ‘best building conservation’.
Sir Ralf (later Lord) Dahrendorf served as Warden from 1987 – 1997. He came to St Antony’s after a distinguished career as a social theorist and politician in Germany, a European Commissioner, and Director of the London School of Economics. He further enlarged the College and developed its role as a source of policy advice.
Portrait by Bryan Organ.
1993 marked the completion of a new building to house the Nissan Institute for Japanese Studies and the Bodleian Japanese Library. The Nissan Institute building houses a 147-seat lecture theatre and many teaching rooms. It also contains the Bodleian Japanese Library which is one of the principal collections on Japan in the UK. The Institute runs MSc and MPhil graduate programmes.
Sir Marrack Goulding was Warden from 1997 to 2006. He served in the British Diplomatic Service for 26 years before becoming an Under Secretary-General at the United Nations. His appointment underlined the international nature of the College and its links with government and business.
Portrait by Henry Mee.
The Founder’s Building was opened on the college site, enabling a total of 60 students and College Members to be housed in accommodation on the College campus. This building also houses a gym, and two seminar spaces.
On the retirement of Sir Marrack, Professor Roger Goodman, a Fellow of the College since 1993, became Acting Warden in October 2006.
Professor Margaret MacMillan, was Warden of St Antony’s from 2007-2017. Prior to this, she was Provost of Trinity College, Toronto. Margaret is now an Honorary Fellow at St Antony’s, Emeritus Professor of International History at Oxford University, and an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Toronto. Her research specialises in British imperial history and the international history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Her publications have been translated into 26 languages and include Paris, 1919, Nixon and Mao and The War that Ended Peace. Her latest book is War: How Conflict Shaped Us (2020). She gave the CBC’s Massey lectures in 2015 and the BBC’s Reith Lectures in 2018. Margaret was appointed by the King to the Order of Merit in 2022.
The college’s new Gateway Buildings opened in 2013, which provided a new main entrance to the college, housing the Porter’s Lodge, student accommodation, two conference spaces and offices. These buildings form the east, and final, side of the college’s first quadrangle. The funding for this was gained in part by Foulath Hadid who, for his outstanding services to the college, was elected to an Honorary Fellowship in 2004, and the Hadid Room, the college’s meeting room, was named in his honour.
In 2015, the Middle East Centre Investcorp Building, designed by the Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, was opened. This iconic building houses a 117-seat auditorium and the Middle East Library and Archive. The library and archive of the Investcorp Building provide optimum conditions to conserve and manage the Middle East Centre’s collections that were previously stored in the basement of 66 Woodstock Road.
Professor Roger Goodman, took office as Warden in October 2017. His relationship with the College began in 1982 when he arrived to start his doctoral work in social anthropology. Roger is an anthropologist by training and has been Nissan Professor of Modern Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford since 2003. He was the inaugural Head of the newly-created Oxford School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies between 2004-7 and then Head of the University of Oxford’s Social Sciences Division for almost ten years and a member of the University’s ruling Council for eleven years before taking up his post as Warden at St Antony’s College. He has published widely on many aspects of Japanese education and social welfare institutions and his most recent book is a monograph on the changes that are taking place in Japanese higher education. He is a Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences and was President and the Chair of the Academy’s Council between 2015-21. In 2024, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Social Science.