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Durham University

Department of History



It is with regret that we announce the death of Richard Britnell on Tuesday 17 December 2013

(19 December 2013)

Professor Richard Britnell, FBA, 1944–2013

Richard was born in Wrexham on 21 April 1944 and was educated at Clare College, Cambridge, where he took his BA in 1964 and his PhD in 1970. He was appointed to a lectureship in economic history at Durham University in 1966, promoted senior lecturer in 1986, reader in 1994 and professor in 1997. He retired in 2003 and was elected to the fellowship of the British Academy in 2005.

Richard was one of the most distinguished medieval economic historians of his generation. His first book, Growth and Decline in Colchester, 1300–1525 (CUP), was published in 1986. It was followed in 1992 by his major work, The Commercialisation of English Society, 1000–1500 (CUP), which appeared in a second edition from Manchester University Press four years later. In addition, he published a string of influential articles in the major journals, notably the Economic History Review and Past and Present. He remained active until the end of his life – four articles and a series of encyclopaedia entries appeared only last year.

Richard is best known for this work on medieval England, but his intellectual interests ranged considerably wider than this. He also published work on northern Italy in the middle ages, and some alumni may remember his lectures on the economic history of the United States.

He was a committed servant to Durham and the wider academic community, acting as tutor for two colleges (Van Mildert and St Cuthbert’s Society), serving as the second chair of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (now the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies), and, since 1999, editing with Margaret Harvey the publications series of the Surtees Society.

Richard's obituary in The Guardian can be read here.

Richard’s funeral will take place on Monday 30 December at 1.15 pm at St Cuthbert’s Church, North Road.

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