Neil Armstrong, 1974-2015

A leading social and cultural historian of 19th- and 20th-century Britain has died

April 30, 2015

Neil Armstrong was born in Salisbury on 5 August 1974 and studied history and politics at the University of Huddersfield (1992-95). He then went on to the University of York for an MA in historical research (1999), which was followed by a PhD (2004).

By the time he finished his doctorate, Dr Armstrong had already begun teaching part-time in York’s department of history and in Newcastle University’s School of Historical Studies (2002-05). After a short period as a lecturer in history at the University of Warwick (2005-06), he secured his first permanent lectureship at the University of Gloucestershire, where he later served as course leader for history (2008-10). He moved on to his final position as senior lecturer in history at the University of Teesside in 2010.

At the start of his career, Dr Armstrong’s research interests focused on the English Christmas in the 19th and early 20th centuries, showing how processes of modernisation and consumption made the festival a central part of national culture by the eve of the First World War. He summarised his findings in a number of articles that culminated in his celebrated book Christmas in Nineteenth-Century England (2010).

From there, Dr Armstrong turned his attention to the post-war Anglican Church in Britain, and how it has tried to meet the challenges of an increasingly secular society. He published articles on clerical marriage and divorce that explored how relationships between male clergy and their wives have been shaped by notions of authentic selfhood and psychological autonomy. And, most recently, he examined the complex relationships between spiritualism, exorcism and the Anglican Church in the 1970s.

Michael Brown, now senior lecturer in history at the University of Roehampton, recalled Dr Armstrong as “a charismatic colleague and friend. Possessed of a bone-dry sense of humour and razor-sharp wit, he was a welcome addition to any conference dinner or drinks party. He was noted for his passionate love of cricket, his occasional and ambivalent interest in most other sports and his inexplicable, though doubtless purely academic, affection for the Eurovision Song Contest. He was also well known for his encyclopedic knowledge of obscure facts, particularly those related to political geography. He will be fondly remembered by a generation of students who were inspired by his teaching and charmed by his character.”

Dr Armstrong accidentally drowned on 27 March and is survived by his wife, Catriona Kennedy, senior lecturer in modern history at the University of York.

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest