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Peter Sawyer

Emeritus Professor Peter Hayes Sawyer

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death of Emeritus Professor Peter Sawyer, on 9 July 2018.

After reading Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford, Peter took up a research studentship at Manchester before moving to Edinburgh, Leeds and then Birmingham.  He returned to Leeds in 1964 as a Lecturer in Medieval History, becoming a Reader in 1967, and Professor of Medieval History in 1970, a chair he held until he took early retirement in 1982.

Throughout his career, Peter’s research e focused upon Anglo-Saxon history, in particular Anglo-Saxon charters (still referenced universally by the ‘Sawyer number’ he assigned in his annotated catalogue for the Royal Historical Society);  and upon Viking and Scandinavian Medieval History. It was these interests that led him back to Leeds:  he was attracted by the Library’s large collections of early medieval material, including the University’s unique coin collection, on which he drew frequently to support his lectures and writing. In 1966, he worked with the department to launch the first ever regional history journal, Northern History, and Peter was also instrumental in the creation of the International Medieval Bibliography in 1967, still the leading interdisciplinary bibliography of the Middle Ages.

Following his retirement from Leeds, Peter moved to Sweden, where he continued to write and to research, and retained a close and lively interest in new discoveries in the Anglo-Saxon field.  

Peter was a lively and engaging teacher and supervisor. His ability to enthuse his audience also led to him being in great demand as a visiting scholar – including appointments at the University of Minnesota, the University of California, and the University of Göthenburg – and at academic conferences. Indefatigable and dedicated to his research, he continued to travel and to publish until very recently, with his seminal works, in addition to the Anglo-Saxon Charters, including his edition of Textus Roffensis, and the challenging Age of the Vikings.

Peter will be remembered by students and colleagues alike with enormous respect for his academic commitment and authority. He will also be remembered with real fondness for his irreverent wit, and his unique ability to shake up the established order – a gift that enlivened and enriched the life of the department.

The funeral took place on Friday 20 July 2018 in Uppsala, Sweden, on which day the flag on the Parkinson Building was flown at half-mast in Peter’s memory.