1933 portrait of Sir Henry Churchill Maxwell Lyte by the artist Samuel Melton Fisher (1860–1939), now in the National Portrait Gallery.
Maxwell Lyte was born on 29 May 1848 in London, to John Walker and Emily Jeanette Maxwell-Lyte. He was the grandson of Henry Francis Lyte. He was educated at Eton College and at Christ Church, Oxford, taking an Honours degree(s) in Law and History, and becoming an M.A. He married Frances Fownes Somerville on 3 January 1871 in Wells, Somerset. Their children were Agnes (22 October 1871); Edith (30 October 1872); Margaret (27 March 1874); John (15 June 1875); Walter (4 March 1877); and Arthur (10 April 1881), who went on, after education at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford, to be assistant secretary of the Board of Education in 1936.
Maxwell Lyte published his first book, History of Eton College, in 1875. In 1880 and 1881 he wrote a series of papers on Dunster and its Lords for the Archaeological Journal, which were later reprinted as a book. In 1886, he published History of the University of Oxford from the earliest times to the year 1530. For several years Maxwell Lyte was an inspector of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.
In 1886, he was appointed Deputy Keeper of the Public Record Office (PRO) in succession to William Hardy. As a newcomer, he was initially resented by the staff of the office, but quickly asserted his authority. He reformed the clerks' pay structure, began plans for a permanent museum, organised a project to celebrate 800 years since production of the Domesday Book and in 1889 introduced a lift and electric lights in the building. Despite public opposition, he demolished the Rolls Chapel to make room for an extension along Chancery Lane, incorporating the chancel arch, stained glass and monuments in the museum.
In 1890 Maxwell Lyte went to Rome and drew up the rules for formation of a Calendar of Papal Registers, starting with those of Pope Innocent III. Reviewers later criticised the omission of these rules from the Calendar, which reduced its value to researchers.
The PRO had been publishing the Rolls Series, critically edited versions of selected texts in the Record Office. Although many were of great value, there were failures and a sense of amateurishness in some of the publications. Maxwell Lyte was influential in the decision to transfer editors and funding from work on the series to the more valuable work of publishing public records. In 1892 he introduced the Lists and Indexes series. By terminating the Rolls Series in 1894 and concentrating on making guides and calendars to the records, which professional historians could now access directly, Maxwell Lyte transformed the Record Office into a centre of scholarship. He was instrumental in the passage of an Act of Parliament in 1898 that allowed for destruction of records of little apparent value back to 1660.
In 1908, Maxwell Lyte arranged for a new Guide to the contents of the PRO. In 1910 he became engaged in a struggle to prevent records on Wales being transferred there, refusing to co-operate with a commission set up for this purpose. In 1914, as Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, he opposed reduction of controls over access to the public records.
Although personally in favour of giving the public access to documents up to 1860, for later records he recommended that each case be subject to an inquiry about the purpose and extent of the research. His concern was that the researcher might publish distorted and damaging work based on a biased selection, and could even be in the pay of foreign powers. During the planning of the National War Museum in 1917, as keeper of the Public Record Office he decided against giving custody of War Records to the museum. In 1924 he was appointed chairman of a committee established by the British Academy to prepare a dictionary of Medieval Latin based on British sources dating between 1066 and 1600.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1893). Great Public Schools: Eton–Harrow–Charterhouse–Cheltenham–Rugby–Clifton–Westminster–Marlborough–Haileybury–Winchester. London: E. Arnold. ISBN 1-151-17735-0.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1905). Catalogue of Manuscripts and Other Objects in the Museum of the Public Record Office. London: H.M.S.O.
Maxwell-Lyte, Henry Churchill (1909). A History of Dunster and of the Families of Mohun & Luttrell. London: St. Catherine Press. ISBN 1458815129.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill; Black, J. G.; Brodie, R. H. V. (1914). Calendar of the Patent Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office. Vol. 53–54. H.M.S.O.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1915). A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient Deeds in the Public Record Office: Series, Volume 6. H. M. Stationery Office.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1915). Calendar of Fine Rolls: preserved in the Public Record Office... London: H.M.S.O.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1916). Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery): preserved in the Public Record Office... [Preface by H. C. Maxwell Lyte.] London: H.M.S.O.
Maxwell-Lyte, Henry Churchill (1917). Documents and extracts illustrating the history of the Honour of Dunster. Somerset Record Society.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1918). Documents and extracts illustrating the history of the Honour of Dunster.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1920). Journal of the commissioners for trade and plantations... H.M.S.O.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1920). The Book of Fees: commonly called Testa de Nevill. London: H.M.S.O.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1920). Two Registers Formerly Belongings to the Family of Beauchamp of Hatch. Butler & Tanner. ISBN 1-177-25653-3.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill; Brodie, R. H. V. (1924). Edward VI. Volumes 55–61 of Calendar of the Patent Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office. London: H.M.S.O.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry C. (1926). Historical Notes on the Use of the Great Seal of England. London: H.M.S.O.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1931). Historical Notes on some Somerset manors formerly connected with the honour of Dunster. Somerset Record Society.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1931). Historical Notes on some Somerset manors. Somerset, Butler & Tanner.
Maxwell-Lyte, Henry Churchill (1937). The Registers of Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1466–1491, and Richard Fox, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1492–1494. Somerset Record Society.
Maxwell-Lyte, Henry Churchill (1939). The Registers of Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1496–1503, and Hadrian de Castello, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1503–1518. Somerset Record Society.
Maxwell Lyte, Henry Churchill (1940). The Register of Thomas Wolsey, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1518–1523, John Clerke, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1523–1541, William Knyght, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1541–1547 and Gilbert Bourne, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1554–1559. Butler & Tanner.
^"Genealogy of John "Mad Jack" Fuller". Archived from the original on 13 November 2007. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
^"Review of A History of Eton College, 1440–1884 by H. C. Maxwell Lyte, a new edition, revised and enlarged, 1889". The Quarterly Journal. 171: 1–27. July 1890.
Bigsby, Robert (1869). "Roll of Members of the Venerable English Langue, 1868". Memoir of the Illustrious and sovereign order of st. John of Jerusalem, from the capitulation of Malta in 1798. Derby: Richard Keene. p. 178.
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Hoskin, Philippa M.; Brooke, Christopher Nugent Lawrence; Dobson, Richard Barrie (2005). The foundations of medieval English ecclesiastical history: studies presented to David Smith. Boydell Press. ISBN 1-84383-169-4.
Johnson, Charles (1940). "Sir Henry Churchill Maxwell-Lyte 1848–1940". Proceedings of the British Academy. Oxford University Press. 26.
Parr, Victor (1899). Men and Women of the Time: A Dictionary of Contemporaries. London: George Routledge and Sons. p. 685.
Hyamson, Albert Montefiore (1951). A Dictionary of Universal Biography of All Ages and of All Peoples (2nd ed.). Routledge & Keegan Paul. (republished Taylor & Francis, ISBN 978-0-7100-1580-8)
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