Dodwell, Henry (1641–1711), theologian and non-juror, was born in Dublin, son of William Dodwell, who served in the army and held lands in Connacht, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Henry Slingsby. He spent his early childhood in Dublin before his family moved to London and York c.1648. He attended the York Free School. His parents both died c.1650 and he was taken in by his uncle Henry Dodwell, a clergyman in Suffolk. He entered TCD as a pensioner on 26 September 1655 and was elected a fellow in 1662. During this time he was strongly influenced by his tutor, Dr John Stearne (qv). He resigned his fellowship in 1666, apparently because he did not wish to take holy orders. He moved to London c.1674 and made friendships with a number of clergymen including Dr William Lloyd. In 1688 he was appointed Camden professor of history at the University of Oxford. His conscience was troubled by the Glorious Revolution and in 1689 he published anonymously Concerning the case of taking the new oath of fealty and allegiance. Two years later (November 1691) he was deprived of his university post for refusing to take the new oath of allegiance to William III (qv) and Mary. He spent the rest of his life living in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. Shortly before his death he returned to the established church, by which time he and like-minded non-jurors had come to the view that their schism was no longer sustainable.
Dodwell was one of the most learned scholars and theologians of his time. At least fifty of his discourses were published during his life and several more after his death. He was too a considerable scholar of classical antiquity. In 1681 he had published A discourse concerning Sanchoniathon's Phoenician history and thereafter he wrote many treatises on ancient authors. His greatest work, published ten years after his being deprived of the Camden chair, was De veteribus Graecorum Romanorumque cyclis (1701). His theological outlook was quite uncompromising. He believed that the soul received its immortality by baptism alone; that it was wrong for persons from different Christian traditions to marry each other, and that occasional communion was destructive. He had a strong interest in the early history of the Christian church and in biblical languages. He encouraged both his students and the clergy to look to the ‘primitive catholic church’ for guidance at a time when the established church in England and Ireland was in crisis. He believed that there was a sacred bond between monarch and episcopate and that the spiritual independence of the bishops had been seriously undermined by the civil establishment. In 1692 he wrote The vindication of the bishops, and during the schism in the church at the end of Queen Anne's reign in 1711 he was embroiled in a heated debate with a number of bishops including William King (qv), archbishop of Dublin. Dodwell was not overtly political and his arguments were carefully crafted. Indeed, he was deeply troubled when his theological works were used by Jacobites for their own ends.
Dodwell was a modest man in appearance and manner, but generous in spirit. The Stradbally landowner Pole Cosby (qv) described him as a ‘little low man, went plain in dress, never crossed a horse but always walked wherever he went, backwards and forwards from Athlone to Dublin, and so from Holyhead to London . . . and had his pocket full of books and read every step as he went along the road’ (Cosby autobiography, 259). While living in Shottesbrooke, Berkshire, he formed a close-knit group of friends, which included the antiquary Thomas Hearne, the local landowner Francis Cherry, and a non-juring clergyman, Francis Brokesby. Brokesby wrote a detailed account of Dodwell's life in 1715 and Hearne recorded his meetings with Dodwell in his journal.
Dodwell married (1694) Anne Elliott, apparently the daughter of the butcher with whom he had taken lodgings in Berkshire. He had about ten children, of whom six survived to adulthood. His eldest son, Henry Dodwell (d. 1784), was also a theologian and patron of the fledgling Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. He died on 7 June 1711 at his home in Shottesbrooke. A complete list of his printed works can be found in Brokesby. A portrait of Dodwell by an unknown artist is in TCD. Two different engravings of his portrait were made c.1697; one of them was engraved by M. van der Gucht.