OBITUARY : Dorothea Oschinsky

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The Independent Online
Dorothea Oschinsky made her career as Lecturer and Reader in Palaeography in Liverpool University, where she taught and directed the course for local archivists for many years. The enthusiasm of her teaching in medieval palaeography and records helped and inspired a generation of local archivists in this country. She helped to create the pioneer course at Liverpool and to make it one of the chief centres for the training of archivists in Britain.

Oschinsky was by birth a Silesian, from the days when Silesia was part of Germany: she was brought up in Breslau (as it then was) and was a student at the University of Breslau, where she did her first research on the estates of the diocese of Bressanone (Brixen) under the supervision of Professor Leo Santifaller, with whom she was to resume cordial relations after the Second World War.

She did all the exercises of a PhD at Breslau in the 1930s. But she came of a Jewish family - though herself agnostic in religion - and her Jewish descent prevented the formal confirmation of the degree, and drove her into exile. She brought her parents safely to England in a time of great difficulty and trauma.

She started another PhD under Eileen Power, the second of the great influences on her academic life, and Eleanora Carus-Wilson, at the London School of Economics - and so came to Cambridge with LSE after the outbreak of war. Thus she came to work in the Cambridge University Library, one of the supreme experiences of her new life.

Her original scholarship lay in medieval economic history, and her major achievement was the 1971 edition of the unique group of treatises on estate management in 13th- century England of which the best known is Walter of Henley.

After her retirement from Liverpool her services to archives and archivists were recognised by the award of the Ellis Prize of the Society of Archivists.

Dorothea Oschinsky's early life was a struggle to survive, and Hitler's Germany left many scars; she had strong prejudices, and some eccentricities. But she combined in an extraordinary degree deep and warm feelings - for her friends, for her pupils, for her home, for the Cambridge University Library - with flashes of exceptional insight. Sadly, her mind and memory faded in her last years.

Christopher Brooke

Dorothea Oschinsky, historian and teacher: born Silesia 16 April 1910; Lecturer in Palaeography, Liverpool University 1946-72, Reader 1972-76; died Cambridge 1 September 1995.