Kevin Sharpe, 1949-2011

November 17, 2011

"Slightly provocative, slightly cocky, but always intellectually impressive," Kevin Sharpe was a unique scholar, and one of the first to embrace the importance of interdisciplinarity.

Born on 26 January 1949, Professor Sharpe received an open award to read history at St Catherine's College, Oxford and went on to study for a doctorate in the discipline under the supervision of Hugh Trevor-Roper.

After four years as a research fellow at Oriel College, Oxford, Professor Sharpe spent several years as a lecturer in history at the university before moving to a parallel post at the University of Southampton, where he was to spend more than two decades.

During his time there, he progressed to senior lecturer, reader and professor of early modern history, eventually becoming professor of history and director of research at the institution.

On leaving Southampton, he spent a year as Fletcher Jones research professor at the Huntington Library and Mellon professor at the California Institute of Technology, before going on to spend a further year as visiting professor at the Max Planck Institute for History.

In 2005, he was appointed professor of early modern culture at Queen Mary, University of London and honorary professor in the department of English and comparative literature at the University of Warwick.

He was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1979 and a fellow of the English Association in 2002.

Andrew McRae, associate dean of education at the University of Exeter and a long-term friend of Professor Sharpe's, said that he had done some "really bold" things in the field of cultural history, and had remained passionate about interdisciplinary studies throughout his career.

"He fantasised about becoming an art historian as his final job. In terms of someone who changed a range of fields, he's almost unparalleled," he said.

Professor McRae also paid tribute to Professor Sharpe as an "extremely lively" person. "He was a great friend, a great engager with any source of intellectual debate. He was also a great gossip, a fantastic source of intelligence. He knew everyone and what everyone was doing, and he was a very loyal friend to many people. You'd remember him as someone with a glass in his hand and a quotable, often politically incorrect, quote."

Professor Sharpe died on 5 November from cancer. Tom Healy, professor of Renaissance studies at the University of Sussex, said: "I cannot but feel he would have appreciated an end amid the cacophony of Bonfire Night, a date so significant for the era he helped us to better understand."

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