Obituary: Professor Barry Coward

Patrick Little celebrates the life and career of a major historian of Early Modern Britain.

Barry Coward, who died of cancer on March 17th at the age of 70, was one of the most respected and best loved historians of his generation. He joined Birkbeck, University of London in 1966 and worked there for 40 years as lecturer, senior lecturer, reader and finally professor, retiring in 2006. During this time he taught many thousands of students and wrote a number of important books, including his classic survey of the 17th century, The Stuart Age, first published in 1980. The fourth edition is soon to appear.

Despite his academic standing Barry was a modest man who never forgot his roots in the Lancashire town of Rochdale. History, for him, was not the preserve of academic experts: it was an exciting subject of relevance to everyone. He derived immense satisfaction from seeing generations of Birkbeck students with no formal qualifications gain good degrees; and he was as at home discussing history in the college bar as in the seminar room.

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