Angus Calder 1942-2008

June 26, 2008

An academic who combined his teaching and research with work as an author, poet, critic, editor, journalist, historian and cultural commentator has died aged 66.

Angus Calder studied English at the University of Cambridge before going on to the University of Sussex where his doctoral thesis was on Second World War politics in Britain. After being published in 1969 as The People's War: Britain 1939-45, it went on to win the John Llewellyn Rees Prize and has remained in print ever since.

He taught in universities all over the world, principally in Scotland, Africa and New Zealand, and in the 1980s he was co-editor of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature.

Dr Calder was the son of Lord Ritchie Calder, former professor of international relations at the University of Edinburgh and a founding member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

He moved to Scotland to work in 1971, becoming a staff tutor in arts in The Open University in Scotland and later a reader in cultural studies. He helped establish the Scottish Poetry Library and wrote introductions to a range of classics, including Charles Dickens's Great Expectations and T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. His refusal to compartmentalise his interests and his dedication to teaching as well as research made him an ideal OU tutor.

Ian Donnachie, reader in history at The Open University in Scotland, said Dr Calder was a great enthusiast for interdisciplinary studies and had made a substantial contribution to bringing subjects together.

Dr Donnachie knew him for almost 40 years and they worked jointly as staff tutors in the OU's faculty of arts. He said Dr Calder's death was a sad blow to many in the university. "Angus was an enormously stimulating colleague and he made a formidable contribution to OU courses, including a substantial raft of Scottish literary and cultural input," Dr Donnachie said. "He was an inspiring teacher, as countless students can testify. He never paraded his abilities, which were quite genuinely renaissance, as his publications show. He'll be sadly missed."

Dr Calder was keen to promote Scotland's "democratic intellectualism" and an egalitarian belief in the benefits of education and culture, which was the theme of one of his last books, Scotlands of the Mind.

An obituary in The Herald newspaper records its publisher, Gavin McDougall of Luath Press, confessing that the book was conceived during a marathon session in the pub - "after which a work-experience student who had tagged along was not seen in the office for the rest of the week".

Dr Calder died on 5 June, only a few weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He is survived by his wife, Kate, and four children.

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