Obituary: Professor Peter Morris

It was always possible to recognise an article or a review written by Peter Morris without looking for the author's name. It usually began on a conversational tone and, if it was about French politics, it would contain humorous remarks before moving to a more serious appraisal.

For example, he wrote of the advanced age of many French politicians, describing their presence as "government by bus-pass holders" and commenting that, when Harold Wilson talked of a week's being a long time in politics, he could not have had in mind the career structures of French politicians. Then he went on to write about the intellectual agility and administrative competence that the system instilled in its governing elite, the weakness of political parties and the resources provided by city halls.

Morris was a very successful teacher of politics, both British and French, well appreciated both in Britain and France. His sudden and early death from cancer is the more tragic since he was starting on a new and important period in his life.

Having recently been appointed to the Chair of Modern Politics and History at Aston University, he was about to begin his term as Head of the Department of Languages and European Studies. He had been invited by Roland Dumas to become the British representative at the Institut Francois Mitterrand in Paris and was beginning to get embroiled in the controversy concerning the disposal of Mitterrand's private archives and their availability to researchers. The book on which he was working, with his French colleagues Serge Berstein and Nicolas Roussellier, about the history of Democratic Liberalism, is a considerable work in a major series.

Morris was educated at Cambridge High School for Boys and at Emmanuel College, where he became a Research Fellow. He was also an auditeur libre at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. Then for nearly 25 years he was Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at Nottingham University, from where he was three times invited to teach at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris. Both there and in Nottingham he established excellent relations with students.

In Paris Morris appeared as the sort of Englishman whom young French people had read about and who they thought no longer existed. He was cheerful, good-tempered and tolerant. He was patient, ready to help those for whom the intricacies of the French Radical Party (on which he wrote his Cambridge doctorate thesis) or the complexities of Labour Party politics appeared baffling. At the centenary celebrations for General de Gaulle held in Paris during November 1990, he was much in demand when the news broke of the resignation of Margaret Thatcher.

His books French Politics Today (1994) and Consensus Politics from Attlee to Thatcher (1989) were adopted as textbooks in many universities, and his Histoire du Royaume Uni (1993) was widely read in France. He played an important role in the British Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France from its foundation in 1979.

Most summers he spent in Normandy, at Barneville, on the Cotentin coast. There he was a popular figure, especially in the Place de l'Eglise. One of the last stories he brought back from there was about his conversation with a neighbour who assured him that the Princess of Wales had behaved with much more dignity than had President Mitterrand.

Douglas Johnson

Peter Morris, political historian: born Cambridge 2 September 1946; Lecturer in Politics, Nottingham University 1972-89, Senior Lecturer 1989- 96; Professor of Modern History and Politics, Aston University 1996-97; married; died Nottingham 1 February 1997.

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

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

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

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...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference