Moody, Theodore William Dippie (‘Theo’) (1907–84), historian, was born 26 November 1907 in Belfast, only son (there was one older daughter) of William John Moody of Co. Londonderry, iron turner at Harland & Wolff's shipyard and trade unionist, and Ann Isabella Moody (née Dippie), of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, qualified teacher of tailoring at Belfast Technical College. They were devout Plymouth Brethren. Moody was educated at Belfast's Royal Academical Institution (1920–26) and at QUB (1926–30), graduating with BA in medieval and modern history. From 1930 to 1932 he was a research student at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, where Robert Dudley Edwards (qv) was a fellow student. Moody was awarded the Ph.D. of the University of London in 1934. He was assistant lecturer in history at QUB 1932–5, and lecturer with special responsibility for Irish history 1935–9. In 1939 he moved to TCD, becoming in that year Erasmus Smith's professor of modern history, a position he held until retirement in 1977. Other academic offices held by him in TCD included those of senior tutor (1952–8), senior lecturer (the equivalent of registrar in other Irish institutions) (1958–64), and first dean of the faculty of arts (1967–9). He was a fellow of TCD, 1939–77.
Moody's Ph.D. dissertation was the starting point for his first monograph, The Londonderry plantation, 1609–41: the city of London and the plantation in Ulster (1939), and several other publications, including a two-volume edition of documents (with J. G. Simms (qv)): The bishopric of Derry and the Irish Society of London (1968, 1983). Up to twenty of the seventy-five items attributed to him in his Festschrift are on Ulster topics. In due course much of his work was to be concerned with key nationalist figures. As early as 1938 he published an article on Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv). He subsequently embarked, with R. B. McDowell, on preparing a complete edition of Tone's writings. This was to appear, with the involvement of C. J. Woods, only many years after Moody's death (vol. i, 1998; vol. ii, 2001, vol. iii, 2007). Being at once a convinced pacifist and a warm advocate of the positive aspects of nationality, Moody greatly admired Thomas Davis (qv), marking his centenary with Thomas Davis, 1814–45. His interest in the Fenians in general was focused in particular on Michael Davitt (qv) and thus extended to the land war and the home rule movement. Moody's long-gestating Davitt and Irish revolution, 1846–82 (1981), with its 700 pages, meticulous annotation, exemplary apparatus, and exhaustive bibliography, may be the ne plus ultra both of modern empirical historiography in Ireland, and of Irish nationalist biography. It was, however, because his nationalism transcended the chauvinism of Fenians and home rulers, and his revolutionism challenged the self-serving materialism of land leaguers, that Davitt, advocate of universal rights and follower of the radical Henry George, won Moody's approbation.
Moody's varied, weighty, and significant scholarly output melds into his wider role in the promotion of the structures and institutions of a modern national historiographical profession. The crucial development was the launching in 1938 of Irish Historical Studies with Moody and Robert Dudley Edwards of UCD as joint editors. This biannual journal, with its listings of writings on Irish history, theses completed on Irish history in Irish universities, and theses in progress, served to create a sense of common enterprise among scholars in the field. Its rules for contributors provided the discipline in Ireland with a professional style sheet. Against this background, Moody at TCD, and Edwards at UCD, established a pattern of progression from an undergraduate programme, now with a substantial Irish history element, to postgraduate research on Irish history. Each of them eventually supervised the completion of scores of major theses. Not only was the volume of scholarly research on Irish history vastly increased: the expectation was inculcated that it could be conducted as well in Ireland as anywhere else. The inclusion of QUB in this development was a vital concern: the national historiography being developed was a thirty-two-county achievement, but one calculated not to disturb the political sensibilities of unionists. In the same spirit, Moody and Edwards had seen to the creation in 1938 of the Irish Committee for Historical Sciences, so as to ensure admission on an all-island basis to the Comité International des Sciences Historiques. Moody and Edwards were the joint architects of a school of national historiography in Ireland. Collaboration with Edwards, however, was not to be enduring. The latter left the joint editorship of IHS in 1958 (Moody remained until 1977) and was sidelined when Moody, in the early 1960s, revealed ambitious plans for a multi-volume, multi-authored, Actonesque history of Ireland that eventually appeared as A new history of Ireland (9 vols, 1976–2005) and is Moody's most visible monument. Those who saw the balance of the project through to completion after Moody's death acknowledged that he was its ‘impelling and directing force’ (NHI, vii, p. v).
Moody saw the scholarly investigation of the past as a moral and patriotic exercise. His talents and his sense of duty saw him drawn into public service, particularly in the areas of university policy and broadcasting. Together with J. C. Beckett (qv) he published a two-volume history of QUB (1959). He was one of those who took a lead in improving TCD's links with the wider public life of the country. When the commission on higher education was set up in 1960 he was an obvious choice for membership. Over a period of seven years Moody, and others, contributed massive documentation and vast amounts of time to a report whose findings were casually cast aside by the minister for education in 1967. Typically, Moody played down the slight and noted that the documentation assembled and analysed would prove of value to future students of the subject. A period of nearly two decades of pro bono service to national broadcasting bodies came to an abrupt end in November 1972 when the Radio Éireann authority of which Moody was a member was dismissed by the government of the day following a broadcast interview that was deemed to infringe a ban on the provision of publicity for paramilitaries. More felicitous was Moody's involvement in the popularisation of scholarship through broadcasting. He was among the initiators of the Thomas Davis lecture series on Radio Éireann in September 1953, which has survived for half a century. And he was a prime mover of the series broadcast on Telefís Éireann in 1966 that was subsequently published as The course of Irish history (edited by Moody and F. X. Martin (qv), 1967), the paperback that finally brought academic national history to a wide popular audience in Ireland.
Moody resided at 14 Healthfield Road, Terenure, from 1942 until his death, which occurred on 11 February 1984. He married (6 July 1935) Margaret Colston Prosser Robertson (d. 1996) of Bristol. Both are interred in the Temple Hill, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, burial ground of the Society of Friends, of which body they had been members in later life. They had one son and four daughters. Moody's voluminous papers are in the library of TCD. A fund named in his honour assists research students from various Irish universities with archival work.
Honours and awards that came Moody's way included FRHS (1934); MRIA (1940); MA (Dubl., 1941); member, IMC (from 1943 to his death); Leverhulme Research Fellowship (1964–6); member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (1965); hon. D.Litt. (QUB, 1959); hon. D.Litt. (NUI, 1978). A comprehensive listing of his writings is in J. G. Simms, ‘The historical work of T. W. Moody’, Lyons & Hawkins, Ireland under the union, 321–8.