Obituaries : Professor Sir Geoffrey Elton

The first time I met Geoffrey Elton was when I was a postgraduate in 1960, writes Conrad Russell [further to the obituary by Professor Patrick Collinson and Tam Dalyell, 9 December]. After addressing the Stubbs Society in Oxford, he faced a concer ted assault, begun "while Lawrence is getting his anti-tank gun into position". I rashly wandered into the cross-fire and defended him.

The next encounter was when he reviewed my first book, which I remember as my first experience of Test match bowling.

One senior colleague told me: "Geoffrey is very attached to his Tudor Revolution", and another told me: "whatever anyone says about Geoffrey, he does want to get at the truth."

Both those judgements were accurate. Geoffrey Elton, though he fought the good fight with considerable vigour, enjoyed being answered back, and was bitterly disappointed if the batsman played no stroke. One could enjoy with him the same camaraderie of swapping jerseys after the match that one can with a government minister one has just been denouncing. This sporting instinct was one of the things about him which creeated real warmth. I remember him once at Atlanta in 1982, speaking at what would have been 3am by the time at which he got up (and he hated late nights as I do early mornings), trailing his coat at Jack Hexter like the matador he was.

When Jack Hexter did not rise to the challenge, Geoffrey Elton came running over to him as soon as the meeting ended, in real and genuine anxiety about his health. It was like watching a five-year-old finding his best friend is not fit to come out and fight.

Geoffrey's other great glory was his devotion to accurate and critical use of sources. Whatever he said, however open to conceptual challenge it might be, was securely anchored in sources, usually in the Public Record Office. He was a stickler for assessing the value and the provenance of a source. Many a time, when wondering what a source would do for me, I have heard the voice of Geoffrey over my shoulder. I have not always agreed with it, but, when I have not, the sandbags and the pill-boxes have been built with peculiar care.

I will still ask what he would have said, but when I think I will not have to defend myself against him any more, I think that some of the fun will have gone out of research.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London