Obituary: Professor Lewis Warren

Wilfred Lewis Warren, historian: born Tunstall, Staffordshire 24 August 1929; assistant lecturer, Queen's University, Belfast 1955-58, lecturer 1958-68, reader 1968-73, Professor of Modern History 1973-93 (Emeritus); married 1960 Anne Smyth (died 1993; one son, two daughters); died Lisburn, Co Antrim 9 July 1994.

LEWIS WARREN, Professor of Modern History at Queen's University, Belfast, was a distinguished historian of the Normans and Anglo-Norman Kingship and a great defender of liberal academic values.

Born in 1929, he was educated at the High School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he was an Open Scholar in History. On graduating in 1952 he embarked on research and was awarded his D Phil, a commendable three years later, for a thesis on Simon Sudbury, Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury, 1361-81. Having tutored at Oxford in history and political science, he was appointed assistant lecturer at Queen's, Belfast, in 1955 and was promoted to Lecturer and Reader before being appointed to the Chair in 1973.

Warren's first publication, not uncharacteristically, was on a new subject and in a journal designed for a general as opposed to a specialist readership: a reappraisal of King John in History Today (1957). There then followed four books, King John (1961), 1066: the year of the three kings (1966), Henry II (1973) and The Governance of Norman and Angevin England 1086-1272 (1987); as well as many articles and reviews. In addition, he wrote six television programmes on the Normans and their conquests and presented each one of them with great style and panache. He wrote with an elegance and accessibility rare amongst academic historians - a distinction acknowledged by Henry II's winning the Wolfson Literary Prize for History in 1973; and, as the successive reprinting of King John and Henry II in Britain and the United States attests, he reached a very wide audience.

Warren also exerted a strong influence on other aspects of academic life. He was a firm believer in universities' being places where students are encouraged to think for themselves, to develop their own interests and to be responsible participants in the shaping of their own education. He practised this philosophy as a gifted tutor and lecturer (always in a gown in the latter capacity); and as a planner, and the first Warden, of new Halls of Residence at Queen's in the 1960s. It was no surprise when he devoted his inaugural lecture to the subject of undergraduate teaching and that on becoming Head of Department he established student membership of its governing body.

As Head of Department and as a senior member of Queen's in a large number of capacities, he demonstrated a distinctive approach to the problems that confronted universities in the 1970s and 1980s; one that gave priority to the integrity of the subject, to imaginative and long-lasting research and to academic and pastoral care for students. As Head he established an extremely efficient administrative system and presided over it in a spirit of tolerance. In the wider context of Queen's he pursued the same ends, often deploying his gift for a well- turned speech that cut through the fog that sometimes envelops academic discussion.

His influence extended well beyond Queen's. Within Northern Ireland he served on the Board of the Arts Council and was a member of the Alliance Party in its formative stages in the 1970s, being the author of 24 monthly articles in its newspaper, between 1971 and 1974. In the wider academic world he was a prominent lecturer, consultant, editor and external examiner. But he said to me on more than one occasion that he derived particular pleasure from two appointments, his election to the Royal Irish Academy in 1976; and his membership from 1984 to 1989 of the University Grants Committee Arts sub-committee which pioneered the assessment of research in history and related disciplines.

The arena in which Warren's many talents were perhaps most effectively displayed to colleagues and other historians was the Wiles Lectures - annual lectures and discussions which brought together experts from all over the world on a different subject every year. Here were demonstrated his gift for unobtrusive but efficient administration, his love of food and wine, his pride in the hospitality and beauty that Northern Ireland could offer the visitor and, most of all, his ability to put a subject into a wider context, to present a fresh thesis, to make comparisons over space and time and to take risks in interpretation.

He once said that he regarded himself, first and foremost, as a communicator. Apart from all the other ways that he communicated his extensive knowledge of the past, the Wiles proved an ideal and influential vehicle.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future