Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Obituary

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Obituary

Article excerpt

On October 6, 2010, Rhys Llywelyn Isacc, seventy-two, lost his battle with cancer--and southern history lost one of its most original and inspiring practitioners. Rhys was born on November 20, 1937, in Cape Town, South Africa. He came from a family of scholars and storytellers. His parents, William Edwyn and Frances Margaret Isaac, were marine botanists and writers, his father a professor, first in South Africa, then in Kenya, where they moved in 1961 to escape apartheid. Edwyn was an epic storyteller, whose tales all began: "When I was in Nairobi...." Rhys's identical twin brother, Glynn, who died twenty-five years and a day before him, was a distinguished paleoanthropologist. After receiving his combined B.A. and B.Sc. from the University of Cape Town in 1958, Rhys left South Africa on a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University, from which he received his M.A. in 1962. In the same year, he married Colleen Malherbe, a teacher and writer and, like Rhys, brilliant, funny, and a refugee from South Africa. She was Rhys's soul mate.

Rhys taught history at the University of Melbourne from 1963 to 1970 and at La Trobe University from 1971 to 2000, when he retired with the rank of professor emeritus. He was also visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, 1975; a fellow at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center, Princeton University, 1981-1982; and, at the College of William and Mary, James Pinckney Harrison Professor of History, 1998-1999, and, every fall, 2002-2006, Visiting Distinguished Professor of History and a research associate with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Rhys burst onto the American history scene with the publication in the William and Mary Quarterly in 1974 of his "Evangelical Revolt: The Nature of the Baptists' Challenge to the Traditional Order in Virginia, 1765 to 1775," in which he used the ethnographic methods characteristic of what would later be known as the Melbourne School (Rhys, Inga Clendinnen, Greg Dening, Donna Merwick). …

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