OBITUARIES : Angus Macintyre

By Brockliss, Laurence | The Independent (London, England), December 23, 1994 | Go to article overview
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OBITUARIES : Angus Macintyre


Brockliss, Laurence, The Independent (London, England)


Angus Macintyre became an Official Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1963, in succession to A.J.P. Taylor. For 30 years until his unexpected death in a car accident on Wednesday, he devoted his life to communicati ng his knowledge and love of the history and culture of 19th- and 20th- century Britain, Ireland and continental Europe (notably France) to students of his own and other Oxford colleges.

A dedicated teacher of undergraduates, who knew how to encourage the pedestrian student as well as stimulate the gifted, he helped to turn the Magdalen Modern History School into one of the leading schools in the university, especially in the last decadewhen he was the senior subject tutor. At the same time a committed and rigorous supervisor of graduate students, he, more than anyone in the Modern History Faculty, established Oxford's reputation as a centre of excellence in 19th- century British history.

Macintyre's tutorial relationship with his students was exemplary. He treated them with courtesy, took their opinions seriously, found time to see them about their problems with the minimum of delay and counselled them wisely - except on the famous occasion he advised Andrew Lloyd Webber not to abandon his historical studies for the uncertain world of writing musicals. Above all, he was concerned that his undergraduate and graduate pupils should obtain the positions in life their abilities deserved. Hisreferences were therefore always carefully written, informative and just, and always prepared on time. It was typical of him that one of his last acts in college before leaving for his Christmas vacation in the family home on the Kintyre peninsula was to ensure that a number of references due in the New Year had been dispatched.

Macintyre's dedication to his students necessarily ate into his research time, and his career was proof of the inability of all but the exceptional Oxford arts tutor to be both a good teacher and a prolific author. Nevertheless, he did still find time tomake an important contribution to his chief field of interest: the history of the British Isles in the first half of the 19th century. His initial research was on Ireland - a natural choice, given his Anglo- Irish background on his mother's side - and, in 1965, he published a detailed political history of the Irish nationalist Daniel O'Connell and his Parliamentary supporters.

This was the first scholarly and objective account of a particularly controversial figure in British and Irish history, and was well received by those who were beginning to rewrite the modern history of Ireland from a non-sectarian perspective. A well-written and highly readable political narrative, the book has stood the test of time, and has only recently been partially supplanted by a much lengthier study.

Macintyre's passionate interest in Ireland's past remained until his death. In recent years he was closely involved with the foundation of the Carroll Chair in Irish history at Oxford and he was actively engaged in the attempt by scholars in the British Isles to produce an account of Irish history that could be used in schools on both sides of the border. In the 1970s, however, he became more interested in cultural, than high political, history, and his second significant publication, in 197

8-79, was a multi-volume edition of the early-19th-century diary of the landscape painter Joseph Farington, prepared with the help of Kenneth Garlick, formerly of the Ashmolean Museum.

Editing proved to be Macintyre's forte. He was general editor of the "Oxford Historical Monographs" series from 1971 to 1979, an important publishing venture dedicated to giving exceptional young scholars the opportunity to publish their doctorates, and he edited the English Historical Review from 1978 to 1986.

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