Obituary: Peter Savigear

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The Independent Online
Peter Wolfgang Martin Savigear, writer and lecturer on politics and international relations, born London 27 July 1939, Lecturer in Politics Leicester University 1966-77, Senior Lecturer 1977-89, Senior Lecturer (Associate) 1989-92, Chief Examiner International Affairs and War Studies staff and officer promotion courses Ministry of Defence 1981-89, married 1966 Francine Fenn (one son, two daughters), died Oakham Rutland 20 October 1992.

PETER SAVIGEAR's most abiding research interest was the history and politics of Corsica, on which he was probably the greatest expert in Britain.

Perhaps because he was an outsider on the island, perhaps because of his personality and his linguistic abilities, Savigear came to be accepted by the shadowy figures of Corsican politics. However, his publications extended over a much wider area than just the politics of Corsica or even terrorism on which he had a national reputation.

Of Huguenot descent on his father's side and German stock on his mother's, Savigear was born in London and attended King's College School, Wimbledon, and then Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he read Modern History. After a brief encounter with advertising he returned to the academic world as a research student at Exeter University before his appointment to Leicester in 1966.

For the next quarter of a century Leicester was the base for Savigear's forays around the world. His academic interests were catholic. He was as brilliant lecturing on Machiavelli as he was on US foreign policy. Along with the inspirational teaching style went a steady output of publication. He published widely on international relations and particularly on international theory (an early product of the fruitful friendships he had at Leicester was the publication in 1971 with Murray Forsyth and Maurice Keens-Soper of The Theory of International Relations). Over the years there came a stream of articles. Among his last works were a study of superpower relationships published in 1987 as Cold War or Detente in the 1980s (subsequently translated into Japanese) and German Federalism Today (1991), which he co-edited with a Leicester colleague, Charlie Jeffery.

Savigear's broad intellectual interests within Europe reflected in part his own family background. This background helped also to give him his exceptional fluency in the major European languages. He wrote as easily in French as he did in English. In the later years of his career his interests turned increasingly to the problems of terrorism. This stemmed not only from his study of Corsica but also from his experience in working with the Ministry of Defence.

He will be remembered by many in the armed services for his work in army education. He was immensely popular as a lecturer to military audiences and his success in this work led to his being invited to become a chief examiner for officer promotions, a post which he held from 1981 to 1989. His academic colleagues had the firm impression that he relished this as much for the opportunities it gave him to visit some of the world's trouble spots as for the chances to lecture to army officers.

Above all else, Savigear will be remembered for the exuberance of his personality and the warmth and zest that he brought to life. Savigear was a born raconteur, whether the subject was his beloved open-topped Alfa Romeo or the minutiae of Corsican life. There was, however, a serious side to his personality as his decade of service as a member of the Board of Visitors of Gartree Prison in Leicestershire indicates.

There was general surprise among his colleagues and friends when Savigear opted for early retirement in the summer of 1989. He had other things he wanted to do and had always kept many contacts outside the world of academe. The purchase of a disused olive mill in Corsica undoubtedly set the seal on his decision to leave a job which he saw as changing in ways that were not wholly to his liking. Alas, he had too little time to enjoy his purchase (though enough to regale his colleagues with tales of battles with the rat population or the ravages of forest fires).

When he returned from Corsica in late September last year, it was clear to his friends that he was very ill. Just how ill was revealed within a few days when he was diagnosed as having an inoperable brain tumour. The past year has been a long battle which he fought with characteristic determination and humour.