St Antony's was founded in 1950 as one of the earliest postgraduate colleges in the University of Oxford. Antonin Besse, a French businessman based in Aden, endowed St Antony’s and from the start it had a strong European and international focus, with fellows and students largely in History, Politics and International Relations. By the 1960s, the College decided to specialise in these fields and the first Warden and sub-Warden, William Deakin and James Joll, appointed fellows with expertise in Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe, China and Africa. Albert Hourani’s appointment provided major momentum to Middle Eastern Studies and Raymond Carr, the second Warden, encouraged Latin American Studies. By 1960 there were 260 students from 34 countries. In 1964 St Antony’s was the second Oxford College, after Nuffield, to admit both men and women students.
St Antony’s built on these early achievements with Centres, programmes and regular academic seminars that focused on different regions of the world. The College became distinctive within Oxford as the most dynamic intellectual centre for regional or area studies. The approach of key academics was to analyse the world from the vantage point of their regions and the College developed a uniquely polycentric view of global issues. In many respects, the College contributed greatly to the reorientation of academic approaches in Oxford during the period of decolonisation and the Cold War.
Doctoral students at the College registered in the relevant disciplines, and some were able to work with academics in the Oriental Institute that specialised in Asian and Middle Eastern cultural and history. A European Studies Centre was established in 1976 with a generous grant from the Volkswagen Found. In 1981, the Nissan Company endowed an Institute of Japanese Studies and the Bodleian holdings in this field were transferred to a new building on the College precinct. Four of the Centres - Middle East, Russia and Eurasia, Japan and Latin America – developed their own Master’s degrees and all also housed specialist libraries. Students focusing on other areas worked through disciplinary-based Master’s degrees. The College, housed in a former convent, also expanded its central library within the converted chapel.
Following William Deakin, St Antony’s has benefited from a series on long-serving Wardens: Raymond Carr, specialist on Spain and Latin America; Ralf Dahrendorf, an eminent social scientist, particularly well-known for his writing on class and class conflict; Marrack Goulding, a senior figure in the UN with special interests in the Middle East and Africa; and Margaret Macmillan, a wide-ranging historian. The current warden is Roger Goodman, professor of Japanese studies and former chair of the Social Sciences Division.
When the University was reorganised into four major academic divisions, the Social Sciences Division established a School of Interdisciplinary Areas Studies (now the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, OSGAS) in 2002. The Centres for the most part straddled the College and University and the new structure gave them the opportunity to expand more effectively beyond the College. New Centres and Master’s degrees were started, sometimes in conjunction with other departments, notably on Africa, China and South Asia. A South East Asia Centre is currently being launched, with its base in OSGA.
St Antony’s remains Oxford’s most international college and a thriving centre of regional seminars and conferences. There are weekly seminars in each of the Centres with presentations by visiting speakers, staff members and students, as well as a number of major lectures and conferences during the years. Cross-Centre events are also held. About 450 students are now registered from over 60 countries.
In the wake of the events of 2020, Roger Goodman, Warden of St Antony’s, issued a statement on Black Lives Matter.
In 17 June 2020, THE COLLEGE GOVERNING BODY followed suit with its own statement:
St Antony’s College Governing Body fully endorses the Warden’s statement above, and has agreed to implement the immediate policy changes and the permanent governance change set out. It also noted that recent weeks have seen the return of the Rhodes Must Fall protests to the High Street in Oxford. While recognizing the matter is for Oriel College, the Governing Body supports its Warden’s statement on the relocation of the Cecil Rhodes statue to a museum where it can be placed in its correct historical context. It also supports moves to decolonize the curriculum and take concrete new action on anti-racism across the Collegiate University.