In which year did Dumbledore become the Headmaster for Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry?

2 Answers 2


Although the generally accepted date is 1956 (e.g. presuming that Minerva McGonagall replaced Dumbledore as Transfiguration Mistress on his appointment to Headmaster) there's a fair argument that he didn't actually become Headmaster until late 1964/early 1965.

  • We know from the latest release on Pottermore that Minerva McGonagall was appointed as Dumbledore's assistant in 1956 but not as his replacement. There's no canon description of how long she worked under him but we can reasonably assume it would take quite a few years to go from a 21-year-old trainee to full Mistress at Hogwarts;

    She sent an owl to Hogwarts, asking whether she might be considered for a teaching post. The owl returned within hours, offering her a job in the Transfiguration department, under Head of Department, Albus Dumbledore. [Pottermore website]

  • Lupin was born in 1960 and didn't become infected until 1963/4. He speaks of the change in attitude at the school when Dumbledore became Head.

    I was a very small boy when I received the bite. My parents tried everything [edit] It seemed impossible that I would be able to come to Hogwarts. Other parents weren't likely to want their children exposed to me. But then Dumbledore became Headmaster, and he was sympathetic. He said that, as long as we took certain precautions, there was no reason I shouldn't come to school. Prisoner of Azkhaban

You can see an extensive discussion of this alternate hypothesis here.

  • 3
    So… JKR messing up with numbers and dates again, basically?
    – o0'.
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 9:27
  • 1
    Can't she hire an assistant? I mean, it's not like she can't afford it…
    – o0'.
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 9:28
  • @Lohoris - There's no indication she messed up, she just hasn't made it clear.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 9:51

Though never specifically stated, we can infer that Dumbledore became Headmaster in 1956. How do we know this?

Prior to being Headmaster, he served as Transfiguration professor under Headmaster Armando Dippet. Thus, when Dumbledore succeeded him he would have left a vacancy for the spot of Transfiguration. We know that Minerva McGonagall filled this vacancy, but the question is when?

From Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 15: The Hogwarts High Inquisitor:

"How long have you been teaching at Hogwarts?" Professor Umbridge asked.

"Thirty-nine years this December," said Professor McGonagall brusquely, snapping her bag shut.

Order of the Phoenix takes place in 1995 and 1996, with this statement coming in approximately September 1995.

Given the odd date of hiring (in the middle of the school year), we can infer that Dippet died in office, Dumbledore succeeded him, and McGonagall hired to replace him as soon as possible.

Additional Evidence for 1956

We also know that Tom Riddle jynxed the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts when Dumbledore (as Headmaster) refused him the position. Again, this is another date that is unconfirmed but is generally accepted as circa 1957.

See: In what year did Voldemort curse the DADA job

Unfortunately this is based on the ambiguous ten years after the death of Hepzibah Smith (which occurred an unspecified number of years after Riddle graduated), and on the above evidence pointing to 1956.

  • The dating of Voldemort's refusal to the position of DADA tutor is based on the prior assumption that Dumbledore became headmaster in 1957. As such, it's no evidence at all.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 10:20
  • @Richard I agree that the Lupin evidence is the strongest (and +1'd it accordingly), but am providing all the evidence I can for the more widely accepted date of 1956. Unfortunately all the supporting information is interconnected (date of McGonagall's hire, death of Smith, death of Dippet, etc.) and we don't have a real date for any of it. The only issue I have with the Lupin account is that he is retelling it from a very early childhood memory, and thus may not recall it 100% accurately.
    – ssell
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 17:01
  • I just don't think the 1956 date makes sense. Voldemort would have needed to have worked at Borgin and Burkes for less than a year before killing Hepzibah Smith and McGonagall would have had to have been appointed a senior Mistress at the school at the age of 21
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 18:17
  • I don't have an issue with the McGonagall timing as she was the top student of her class. So was Riddle, and he was rejected a teaching position shortly after graduating, but that was under a different Headmaster. Her being the Transfigurations professor does not give her any immediate seniority. As far as I can tell from the books (haven't looked at Pottermore at all), and from the size of the school, I have never seen an instance of multiple professors teaching the same subject. So she was hired as a fresh professor, and only later became Head of House and then Deputy Headmistress.
    – ssell
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 18:25
  • I think the implication is that the wizarding war led to a decimation of the wizard population
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 15, 2014 at 18:27

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