Barlow, James William (1826–1913), historian and writer, was born 21 October 1826 in Co. Dublin, eldest son of the Rev. William Barlow and Catherine Barlow (née Disney). Educated at Wakefield school, he began in 1842 a lifetime in TCD, becoming senior moderator and fellowship prizeman, BA (1847), junior fellow (1850), and MA (1852). Like most fellows at the time he had taken holy orders, but in 1859 the archbishop of Dublin rebuked him for heterodoxy on the doctrine of eternal punishment. Barlow never again officiated as a clergyman.
In 1861 he became Erasmus Smith's professor of modern history, ‘the first professor of modern history for many a long year to take his duties seriously’ (McDowell & Webb, 300). His major historical work was A short history of the Normans in south Europe (1866); he wrote in 1873 that ‘in Ireland a lecture on modern history must be regarded as an incitement to a breach of the peace’ (quoted ibid., 552, n. 64). He also wrote on philosophical questions – his penultimate book was the imaginative fiction The immortals’ great quest (1909) – and on university issues. He represented junior fellows on the college council (of which he was secretary for thirteen years), and boycotted the 1892 tercentenary in protest against the power of senior fellows, though he was reconciled to the system by becoming a senior fellow (1893). McDowell & Webb (op. cit., 300) comment: ‘In his old age a defender of some of the more preposterous aspects of the status quo, he seems to have antagonised at least some of his colleagues by mere perversity. . . . He was bullied mercilessly by Mahaffy [qv] and Traill [qv]’, and he cheerfully described the board of TCD to a royal commission in 1906 as ‘the most heartily and universally abused body in Ireland’ (ibid., 525–6). Barlow was bursar 1893–8, a period in which, he believed, no return on investment in Irish estates was likely; he advised a policy of strictness in dealing with college tenants. He was vice-provost from 1899 to his resignation in 1908. He died 4 July 1913 at The Cottage, Raheny, Dublin; his last publication, Doctors at war: studies of the French medical profession circa the seventeenth century, appeared posthumously in 1914.
He married (1853) his cousin Mary Louisa Barlow of Clontarf; they had four sons and two daughters, one being the novelist Jane Barlow (qv).