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Obituary for Thomas Kennedy

Posted by rdaily under Obituaries | Tags: Thomas Kennedy | 0 Comments


Tom Kennedy always considered himself a lucky man–lucky in lineage,lucky in love, lucky in labor, and lucky in the loyalty of a lot of good friends.

He was born 25 September 1937 in Dayton, Ohio, the second of three sons of Harry Lawrence and Adlyn Cummins Kennedy. He was raised in an Irish-American tribe since most of his parents’ close friends were resolutely Irish, faithfully Catholic and staunchly Democrat. His childhood was nearly idyllic, if insufficiently touched with the hard realities of a relentless world.

From the beginning, Tom was well-educated, in so far as he was willing to co-operate, in good Catholic institutions, where he learned to love history and literature but, alas, to dislike, beyond arithmetic, all things connected with mathematics, a considerable weakness. Perhaps more important, he was taught at home and in school to adhere to strict ethical standards (he sometimes failed to fully embrace) and, more successfully, to treat all human beings with dignity and respect. May it go before his parents and his teachers.

After graduating from the University of Dayton, he served for twenty-five months, mostly in Germany, as a fresh-faced officer in the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the height of the Cold War. There he learned about many things, wonderful and dreadful, he had not encountered in his previously sheltered life. During military service he met a host of fine and talented friends, learned the wonders of a foreign culture and people, suffered the throes of an ultimately unrequited love affair and almost became a serious young man. It was a bracing and maturing experience, never marked, God and good luck be thanked, by the need to fire a weapon in anger or fear at another human being.

Tom’s luck remained intact when, wandering about Europe after his release from the Army, he had a pre-arranged meeting in Stuttgart with a hometown girl, Mary Lynn Goecke, and began the fun and adventure that started as a lark and ended as a life-long attachment. Ahh, he was an undeservingly fortunate creature. While he was teaching literature and learning grammar, finally, at a fortuitously acquired position at a marvelous high school in West Carrollton, Ohio, Tom and Mary were married less than a year after their marvelous German fling. After this glorious coupling, he began to acquire higher education, and she began having babies. The first of these, Maura Ann, was born in Arizona where Tom received a Masters degree, the next two (Padraic and Eamon) in Columbia, South Carolina where he earned a Ph.D. Their fourth precious babe (Caitlin) was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas where Tom attained employment and, good fortune proceeding, they afterward lived together in mostly blissful wedlock, mostly because Mary was usually more patient if not more loving than he. 

During nearly forty years of teaching in the History Department at the University of Arkansas, Tom met a vast array of sometimes brilliant, often fascinating people many of whom, fortune ever-smiling, became close and loving friends. He loved teaching, more perhaps than some of his students loved learning, but in that cast of thousands, there were some he never forgot and a few who gained high places in the world of men and women. Once the children were all in school, Mary joined the staff of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, eventually serving two decades as editor of Survey publications. Having discovered the attractions of research and having learned to write at least moderately lucid prose, Tom began to publish scholarly articles and eventually books, many of which examined Quakers and Quakerism in Britain and the United States.  None, alas, became best sellers, but all were labors of love.  His scholarly pursuits led him to become an active participant and President of the Western Conference on British Studies, and to become President of the Friends Historical Society in London.

Tom, Mary and all four children lived in London for six months, an exciting, educational and usually happy embracing with England and English people. Later, when, luck continuing, he was appointed T. Wister Brown Fellow at Haverford College, Eamon and Cait accompanied their parents to the Philadelphia suburbs; easy for the elders, not always for young teenagers, but all survived another learning experience.  The last overseas residence for Tom and Mary Lynn was in Wolfson College, University of Cambridge.  It proved to be a glorious year and, especially for him, a home away from home while he undertook research trips throughout the British Isles.

While research, teaching, travel, and family demanded much of his attention, Tom always found time for the sporting life: born a Cincinnati Red, educated as a Dayton Flyer, and ripened as an Arkansas Razorback, his loyalties were never in question.  Not content to observe the contests on fields and courts, Tom relished the physical challenges of sport, eventually leading the intramural teams of the Department of History to an all-sport trophy at the University of Arkansas.   The careful management of departmental intramural sports was matched by his nurturing of Fayetteville’s soccer program that has provided instruction and competition to generations of the city’s youth.  Sport provided Tom with an outlet that gave full rein to his love of competition, zest for life, and value of teamwork.

Tom loved to sing and dance and write verse, which often accompanied invitations to the famous annual Party, allegedly celebrating he feast of blessed St. Patrick, he and Mary hosted for several decades and hoped that guests savored as much as they enjoyed. It was all in the tradition, as his sainted ancestors proclaimed: “Life is short and you’re a long time dead.”

Tom is survived by his wife and children, his brother Harry and sister-in-law Sangnete, of Fresno, California, his son-in-law Tony Anaya of Cincinnati, Ohio, daughter-in-law Alison Greer of Baltimore, Maryland, son-in-law Ryan Guyton of Fayetteville, and eight beloved grandchildren, Adlyn, Thomas and Matteo of Cincinnati, Jennie and Jared, of Windsor, Colorado, Harry and Iain, of Baltimore, and Anna, of Fayetteville.    

There will be a memorial service held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville on Saturday February 11 at 11a.m.  If desired, in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made in the form of contributions to any progressive cause.  Tom contributed to them all.

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Obituary: Professor Lacey Baldwin Smith

Posted by jaskelly under Obituaries | Tags: Lacey Baldwin Smith |

Lacey_Baldwin_Smith.jpgPROFESSOR LACEY BALDWIN SMITH - GREENSBORO - Professor Lacey Baldwin Smith died peacefully in his home on Sept. 8, 2013, at almost 91 years old. Professor Emeritus at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., a Guggenheim fellow, twice a Fulbright recipient, and twice recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities award, he was considered one of the "big name" historians. Yet, his writing was as entertaining as it was erudite. From scholarly tomes to "English History Made Brief, Irreverent, and Pleasurable," Lacey was a consummate author, and after 60 years of writing, the majority of his books remain in print. The biography, "Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty," is one of the most referenced books concerning that famous and willful king. While a historian of the distant past, in his own life, Lacey was not a man to look backwards or rest on the laurels of his youth, and so, at the age of 89, the professor penned "Anne Boleyn: The Queen of Controversy" (published 2013). Then, 70 years after having attempted a novel during W.W.II in a military tent in India, he again turned his hand to what he considered the hardest form. He completed his first work of historical fiction and sent it to the publishers days before his health began failing. Although Lacey's writings often focused on the cut-throat and treacherous world of Tudor and Stuart monarchs, Lacey himself was a gentle and gracious man. While he loved to talk history, he was equally happy to read mystery stories, play poker, or watch his three-year-old grandson run circles around him. Having retired to Greensboro, the small village where he spent every summer of his life, he was a champion of the Greensboro Library, the Greensboro Historical Society, and the Greensboro Land Trust. In the wider community, he served on the board of the American Historical Association, the American Historical Review, the Conference on British Studies, and as editor of the Journal of Modern History. As devoted a teacher as he was a writer, he rarely forgot a student's name. One of his last actions before his death was to write to a former undergraduate, whom he hadn't seen in decades, but who had contacted him regarding his most recent book. The devotion he showed his students was only rivaled by that he showed his wife and children. He was preceded in death by his wife of 43 years, Jean Reeder Smith; and is survived by his son, MacAllister Smith; daughters, Dennison Smith, and Katherine Chandler Smith-Brannon; grandsons, Chandler Smith and Steven Brannon; and granddaughter, Oceana Masterman-Smith. A funeral and memorial will be held in Greensboro next July when Lacey's many friends and relatives return to the lake for the summer. The family requests that, in lieu of cards or flowers, donations be made in Lacey's name to the Greensboro Land Trust: 

Published in The Burlington Free Press on September 15, 2013


Robert K. Webb, 1922-2012

Posted by jaskelly under Obituaries | Tags: bob webb, r.k. webb | 0 Comments


Born in Toledo, Ohio, on Nov. 22, 1922, Bob Webb was a piano prodigy who, to the good fortune of British studies, chose instead to be a historian. Among the last of his generation of young men who left college to serve in the military during the Second World War and then became a seminal figure in his field, Bob entered Oberlin College in 1940 and was in the U.S. Army Artillery from 1943 to 1946. Eventually a Master Sergeant, Bob was posted to the U.S., Guam, and the Philippines.  He graduated from Oberlin in 1947 and went on to a Ph. D. at Columbia University in 1951. After a brief stint at Wesleyan University from 1951-1953, he returned to Columbia.  There, he advanced to senior positions, including Chair of the Contemporary Civilization Program.  From 1968 through 1975, he was the editor of the American Historical Review and from 1975-81 of Academe, the AAUP Bulletin.  In 1975, he joined the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he remained until his retirement in 1992. Throughout his career, he collected almost every academic honor and prize available, including a Fulbright Scholarship; a Guggenheim Fellowship, twice; and, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship.  He also enjoyed three Research Grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was a Visiting Fellow in the School of Social Sciences and subsequently at the Humanities Research Centre, The Australian National University. Additionally, he was a Senior Visiting Fellow in the Victorian Studies Centre, the University of Leicester; a Member, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; a Visiting Fellow, the Center for the History of Freedom, Washington University, St. Louis; the Christiansen Visiting Fellow, St. Catherine's College, and an Associate Fellow, Manchester College, Oxford. Modestly and with great effect, Bob Webb had lasting influence upon the understanding and practice of British history.  His distinguished legacy in British studies and upon the greater academic community is apparent in scholarship and style; editorial authority; academic leadership; and teaching and mentoring.

Bob's analytic powers were legendary -- he was incapable of an incoherent thought -- and his mastery of the English language was meticulous and elegant.  Peter Gay got it exactly right when he dedicated his Style in History (1974) to "Bob Webb. Friend, Collaborator, Stylist."  In The British Working-Class Reader:  Literacy and Social Tension, 1790-1848 (1955), Bob emerged as a defining social and intellectual historian, demonstrating the explanatory power of a perspective then just beginning to challenge the long primacy of political history.  Bob set out to understand the challenge that a newly literate working class presented, especially to a newly ascendant middle class who attempted to impose their values and mores on those below them.  Bob found that attempt doomed, not least because of the allegiance of the middle classes to the iron doctrines of political economy.  This astute revisionary work preceded by eight years E.P. Thompson's iconic The Making of the English Working Classes (1963), which argued that the 18th and 19th century "working classes" needed to be rescued from the "enormous condescension of posterity."  Bob's discovery of the conflict between increasingly self-conscious working-class and paternalistic middle-class radicals led him to Harriet Martineau.  A Radical Victorian (1960).  Instead of a conventional biography, Bob deciphered those forces in the early 19th century that formed and were reflected "in this singular woman" and asked what "a study of her amazingly consistent attitudes" revealed about early Victorian society.  The book provided an intellectual and cultural portrait of the time set within a broad and then neglected religious, political and economic context. In this study, Bob became fascinated by the role of religion in general and Unitarianism in particular. Just as historical studies of women were hardly competing for bookshelf space in the 1960's, religion was rarely studied by scholars of the Victorian age.  Had Bob lived a little longer, his eagerly anticipated study of Unitarianism would have become the definitive work.  Instead, he left scores of graceful, revelatory essays, which beg for collection and publication.  Bob taught us that an understanding of religion was essential for an explanation of thought, conduct, policy, and class relations in Victorian life.  Aside from many other essays and book chapters on topics that included analyses of the 1950's and '60's, Bob wrote Modern England (1968) and together with Peter Gay, Modern Europe (1972).

Modern England, revised in 1980, served as the principal text book for at least two generations of students and it was the first volume to deal with both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries of English history.  Bob explained his bias as "political and social" in which the theme of progressive change was more important than the theme of traditional continuity.  Undergraduates reading this book were introduced to a rare mind capable of extraordinarily compelling and memorable scholarly synthesis.   In 1980, in the second edition, Bob extended the time period, rewrote many sections and gave up the notion that some kind of greatness might still lie ahead for England.  But he retained his admiration for the country and its unique achievements in politics, culture, the arts, education, religious tolerance, and the practice of civility.  Had he written a new edition, as he acknowledged, that optimism, qualified as it was, would no longer be possible for expectations about the present and future. Modern England is still on reserve at UCLA's College Library and it was checked out of the Research Library as recently as April 2012.

At the AHR, Bob demanded and received the highest standards for articles and reviews. His careful reading of manuscripts and erudite commentary encouraged contributors to be better, more introspective historians.  Bob believed and acted upon the principal that historical writing should never be stodgy. His trademark was enthusiastic explanation, delivered with economic clarity and panache. Those skills led him to various tenures as a valued editorial advisor for libraries, foundations and publishers.

As an active member and leader in many academic organizations, he delighted his colleagues with his qualities of mind and of character--especially his wit, discernment, and uncanny ability to resolve apparently irreconciliable difficulties. Those organizations included NACBS, where he served as Vice-President and President from 1987-1989; the AAUP, where he held a number of offices from 1966-1981 (see the remembrance in Academe, May-June, 2012); and interdisciplinary roles in accreditation and adjudication bodies.  In 1975 he joined the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he enlisted and led a history department that now includes three eminent scholars of British History—Daniel Ritschel, Webb's successor; Sandra Herbert; and Amy Froide.  While at UMBC, he also served as Acting Chancellor for Academic Affairs from 1978-79. Ten years later, Bob became UMBC's first presidential research professor. After he retired in 1992, a university lecture series in history was created to honor him and distinguished students of Britain came annually to deliver those lectures.  In October, 2010, Bob closed the series with a typically urbane and intriguing exploration of "The Very Long Eighteenth Century: An Experiment in the History of Religion?"   (This can be seen and heard on

Bob Webb was passionate about English history as a complex story, never entirely successful, about an evolving constitutional democracy and civilization in which more was to be admired than despised.  He was also passionate about good food, architecture, and the arts and especially about music.  But most of all, he was passionate about and deeply admired his wife of 54 years, Patty Shull Webb, and his two accomplished daughters, Emily Martin of Los Angeles and Margaret Webb Pressler, of Washington.  His family, including his six grandchildren, was a constant and renewing source of pleasure to him. He also cared deeply about the historical profession. When President of NACBS, Bob took the Executive Committee, of which I was a member, to a Michelin starred restaurant in Chicago.  As we started out, I noted with unease that the sidewalks were covered with ice.  In Los Angeles, ice is what we put into our drinks.  "Hold my arm," said Bob.  "I won't let you fall."  He never let anyone fall whom he could support, as so many will readily testify. A charismatic teacher and mentor to more than two generations of grateful students and colleagues, he will be remembered and missed for his kindness, generosity, authoritative scholarship, prodigious memory, and peerless range of knowledge.  Authentically good, Bob Webb lived wisely and well.


Reba Soffer, California State University, Northridge, Emerita

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Robert K. Webb, 89, a longtime history professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County who was one of the country’s foremost scholars of British history, died Feb. 15 at his home in Washington . . . (continued)

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Bentley Brinkerhoff Gilbert (1924-2008)

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Bentley-Brinkerhoff_GilbertExecutive secretary of the North American Conference on British Studies and editor of the Journal of British Studies

Bentley Brinkerhoff Gilbert, emeritus professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, died in Mansfield, Ohio, on April 5, 2008, his 84th birthday. Mansfield, in east-central Ohio, where his family had lived since the mid-19th century, always meant a great deal to Bentley Gilbert, and he returned there to live shortly after his retirement from UIC in 1997. He was especially proud that his great-grandfather, Brigadier General Roeliff Brinkerhoff, served in the Union Army under William Tecumseh Sherman and was in charge of the field transportation of the Army of the Ohio. Gilbert graduated from Mansfield High School in 1942 and served during World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps 308th Airdrome Squadron in the Pacific Theater, with campaign service in New Guinea and the Philippines. His own war experience, as well as that of his father in World War I in France and his great-grandfather in the Civil War, always remained of abiding concern in Gilbert’s scholarship and teaching. This interest was especially reflected in the second volume of the Lloyd George biography and in his short book, Britain, 1914–45 (1996). By the 1990s, save for his graduate component, Gilbert was teaching mostly military history. Undergraduates would squirm with delight—or not—when Gilbert would bring to class antiquated but well-preserved family military heirlooms for their inspection.

After his discharge from the military, Gilbert received his BA (1949) at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and an MA at the University of Cincinnati (1950). He worked under Paul Knaplund in British history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he received his PhD in 1954. Bentley Gilbert’s first permanent job was teaching European history at Colorado College (1954–67) and he came to what was then the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle in 1967. Despite its later upgrade to the University of Illinois at Chicago, Gilbert always called UIC, with great fondness, “The Circle.” From his dissertation in 1954 to his last scholarly publications in the mid-1990s, Bentley Gilbert was concerned with the intersection in early and mid-20th-century Britain of social policy and politics, with the minutia of the working out of the social plans of the New Liberalism and with the political agendas of the men— Masterman, Lloyd George, Beveridge—who implemented the grand vision. His first book, The Evolution of National Insurance in Great Britain: The Origins of the Welfare State (1966), focused on the process of how social insurance rather than socialism became the framework for an eventual welfare state within a capitalist society. This work was followed in 1970 by British Social Policy, 1914–39, in which Gilbert discussed the development, admittedly somewhat lackadaisical, of welfare policy before the outbreak of World War II. He concluded that “This policy evolved, like the British empire, in a fit of absence of mind.” In 1973, Gilbert edited C.F.G. Masterman’s classic work of 1901, The Heart of the Empire. During the next two decades, Gilbert wrote two volumes of a study on David Lloyd George’s life before the premiership. The overall title was David Lloyd George: A Political Life, with Volume I (1987) sub-titled The Architect of Change, 1863–1912 and Volume II (1992) The Organizer of Victory, 1912–16. The second volume won the 1993 Society of Midland Authors Prize for Biography. It had been his intention to round out Lloyd George’s life by completing one volume on the last two years of the war and one on the postwar premiership and political career, but despite completing the work through 1917, it remained unfinished at his death. Gilbert published articles in Albion, the American Historical Review, The Historian, the Historical Journal, and the Journal of British Studies. Bentley Gilbert was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, received three fellowships from the National Institutes of Health, and in 1973–74 a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.

Gilbert served as executive secretary to the North American Conference on British Studies from 1974 to 1978; as editor of the Journal of British Studies from 1978 to 1983; as president of the Midwest Conference on British Studies from 1988 to 1990; and as secretary to the newly formed American Friends of the Institute of Historical Research, London, during the early 1990s. Perhaps his most important administrative contribution to British history in the United States was his successful proposal, in 1983, at the end of his term as editor, to settle the formerly peripatetic Journal of British Studies at the University of Chicago Press, where it has remained and flourished. Bentley Gilbert was chair of the Department of History at UIC from 1988 to 1991.

Gilbert was exceedingly proud of the eight graduate students whose dissertations on 20th-century Britain he directed: Barbara Farr, Barbara Kehoe, Doris Racich, Norman Eder, Neal McCrillis, Andrew Wiest, Eugene Beiriger, and Septimus Paul. He also endowed a fellowship at UIC for PhD candidates in European history. During his years in Illinois he was a lay reader and vestryman at St. Elisabeth’s Episcopal Church in Glencoe. He is survived by four children, Bentley Junior, Margaret, Louis, and Francis, by three step-children, Ellen and Arthur Gallagher and Daisy Archie, and by four grandchildren, Jacob, Sylvia, Ethan, and Lydia Gilbert.

—James J. Sack
University of Illinois at Chicago
Katharine Stohrer

© American Historical Association
With permission from the American Historical Association
This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Perspectives
on History
and in Perspectives Online at

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Bernard Semmel (1928-2008)

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Bernard Semmel, a distinguished historian of modern Britain and longtime member of the North American Conference of British Studies, died on August 18, 2008. He published eleven books as well as dozens of articles and reviews in major journals in the United States, Britain, and Canada. He had few equals in the breath and depth of his knowledge of the Victorian and Edwardian intellectual milieu. His books ranged from his first, Imperialism and Social Reform: English Social-Imperial Thought, 1895-1914 (1960), which remains a classic in its field, to his last, George Eliot and the Politics of National Inheritance (1994).

During his long career, he received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim foundation, and the National Humanities Center. He was the editor of the Journal of British Studies from 1969-1974 and a member of the Royal Historical Society.

Professor Semmel received his BA from the College of the City of New York and his MA. And Ph.D from Columbia University. He began his teaching career in 1956 at Park College, Parkville, Missouri. In 1960 he joined the faculty of the Long Island Center of the State University of New York at Oyster Bay, which moved to its permanent home at Stony Brook in 1962. He chaired the department from 1966-1969. After he retired, he became a Distinguished Professor of History at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. Throughout his career, he was a dedicated and inspiring teacher and mentor. His student, Mrinalini Sinha, praised him for his intellectual integrity, his demonstration through his own work that disciplinary boundaries are historically contingent, and his success in linking his principled traditionalism to a radically liberating view of the historian.

Semmel is survived by his wife Maxine, his son Stuart and daughter-in-law Tina, and four grandchildren. His family, friends, colleagues, and students will remember him as a tough-minded, but always generous and compassionate teacher, intellectual, and human being.

Barbara Harris with help from Mrinilini Sinha.

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David Underdown (August 19, 1925 - September 26, 2009)

Posted by jaskelly under Obituaries | Tags: david underdown, kishlansky, underdown | 0 Comments


Dear Colleagues,

As many of you already know, David Underdown passed away on 26 September.  The following is a remembrance from Mark Kishlansky.

Best wishes,
Jason M. Kelly

David Underdown, the eminent historian of early modern England died peacefully at his home in Merced California on September 26th.  He was 84 years of age.

Educated at Wells Grammar School and Exeter College, Oxford, Underdown served in the RAF during World War II after which he completed his B.A. and B. Litt.  He began a doctoral thesis under the direction of Christopher Hill but left Oxford before completing it to enroll in the Graduate School of Yale University where he received an M.A. in American history.

Underdown taught at the University of the South (1953-62) where an endowed history chair in his name commemorates his service; at the University of Virginia (1962-68); at Brown University (1968-8 6) where he was the Monro-Goodwin Wilkinson Professor of European History; and at Yale University (1986-94) from which he retired as the George Burton Adams Professor Emeritus in 1996. Among his many honors he was chosen to receive the AHA's award for scholarly distinction in 1995, was a corresponding fellow of the British Academy, delivered the Prothero Lecture to the Royal Historical Society in 1980 and gave the Ford Lectures at the University of Oxford in 1992. He was twice a Guggenheim Fellow.

Underdown's lifelong scholarly interests centered upon early modern Britain and were especially focused on the English Revolution, its causes and consequences.  He worked on this from a variety of perspectives from the politics of royalism (Royalist Conspiracies in England (1960) to those of the parliamentarians (Pride's Purge, 1971; A Freeborn People (1996)); from localism (Somerset in the Civil War and Interregnum (1973) and Fire from Heaven (1992); to cultural beliefs and practices (Revel, Riot, and Rebellion (1985).  His work displayed two abiding qualities: a mastery of archival sources faithfully reported, and a compelling prose style that carried both story and argument.  He was a craftsman's craftsman, a master of sources, of historiography, and of method who had few equals even among a flashy generation of generalists whose big theses dominated discussion but faded over time while his solid conclusions persevered.

He was a dedicated and attentive teacher who inspired numerous students to follow in his professional footsteps. In lecture hall and tutorial he communicated his passion for the past with quiet certitude and a wry sense of humor.  He was generous with his time and his advice and he wrote more than one doctoral dissertation in a supervisory capacity.

Though personally shy and reticent, he could be transformed by any mention of cricket, one of his life-long passions. He was a member of the Somerset cricket club and rarely missed a match when in England.  His students were instructed never to interrupt him when the BBC world service was reporting scores.  His final book, Start of Play (2000) was a scholarly account of the origins of the modern game.  Though based on solid archival study it most clearly enunciated his own passions and preferences for the amateur, the independent backbencher "agin the government", and the free rural small holder who loved the land he lived on.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Amussen, and three sons from a previous marriage.

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