Rodney Hilton

Chris Wickham looks back upon the life of Rodney Hilton, medieval historian and co-founder of Past and Present.

I have so far not met anyone who knew Rodney Hilton who is not upset at his death, on June 7th, 2002, even though eighty-five is not bad going by any standards. He managed the difficult feat of being both inspiring to others (younger colleagues and postgraduates, not least, into his seventies and beyond), and totally approachable. Rodney hated being on a pedestal as a ‘great historian’, and refused the separation that this implied – he would far rather give you another drink. Across the years, a stream of people, from the countries of half the world, knocked on his door hoping to be received as acolytes and left feeling they were friends. But Rodney was a ‘great historian’, as well; he put his stamp on medieval history in ways that few managed in the twentieth century – Michael Postan, Bruce McFarlane and Richard Southern are among the few medievalists in Britain who had an analogous influence in the postwar period.

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