Tag Archives: “Humanitas”

November 27 2017 – “Piety and Provocation: A Study of George Bell” by Andrew Chandler – Humanitas – George Bell Institute [2008]



Piety and Provocation: A Study of George Bell, Humanitas

Chandler, Andrew
George Bell Institute (2008)
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It is easy for the denizens of Sussex to get George Bell out of proportion but the mainstay of Bell studies, Andrew Chandler does not make this mistake, even though he works at the Bell Institute in Chichester. The brief, clear-eyed survey of Bell’s life and achievements is summed up in his phrase “a costly failure”, not only for him but for the great causes he espoused of world peace and Christian unity. Chandler might have added his failure to inculcate a zeal for social justice into the Church of England which only surfaced under the extreme pressure of re-invigorated liberal capitalism in the late 1970s.

Sadly, Bell’s heritage is largely based on three myths. First, he is said to have opposed the area bombing of Dresden in 1945 which he did not; his major intervention took place in February 1944. This sheds light on the second myth, that Churchill turned him down for Canterbury because of his Dresden speech when, at worst, it might have been because of his actual speech although, Chandler notes, there were many and good reasons why Fisher should have been chosen. Thirdly, Bell is widely regarded as a pacifist although the two full length speeches at the back of this book flatly contradict this.

This is not to say that Bell did not have a full and fruitful life: his support of ecumenism laid a foundation on which we are still building today; his patronage of the arts – crowned by T.S. Eliot’s Murder in The Cathedral – has left a lasting heritage, not least in Chichester; and his writings, though not academically nor theologically profound, possess a directness of thought which refreshes the jaded mind.

Chandler finds it difficult to reach the core of a man who was private – even secretive – uncharismatic and self-effacing, presenting the biographer with a series of contradictions. One instance which Chandler does not note is that the zealously campaigning Bell only made his Lord’s maiden speech in 1938, nine years after taking his seat.

If you know about Bell, this brief survey is probably not for you but, then, as Chandler shows, most people only think they know him.

George Bell Institute – University of Chichester Research Centre – Closure by the George Bell Trust in January 2016 [Trust dissolved in August 2016]



Research Centres

As part of our flourishing research culture, we are home to a number of Research Centres dedicated to specialist areas of academic interest. Together they are representative of the diverse range of study at the University.

The Centres are operated by our academics, utilising University facilities and resources. All of the Centres contribute to academic debate within their particular fields and run regular conferences and events in order to interact with other academics and the public.


The George Bell Institute and the academic work of its human rights scholars was supported by funds from the George Bell Trust. In May 2015 the Trust took the decision that the Trust was not financially viable and a process was put in train to wind up the Trust. This process came to an end in January 2016 and as result the University has closed the Institute and withdrawn the associated Fellowships.


Further information

BBC Radio 4 – “Great Lives” Series – April 2013 – Bishop Bell

Guardian Article – October 22 2015

“Humanitas” – Journal of the George Bell Institute – Editor Dr Andrew Chandler

Dr Andrew Chandler – Research Excellence Framework 2014