Michael Costeloe, 1939-2011

October 13, 2011

"Infectious enthusiasm" for his subject and skill at spinning a yarn earned Michael Costeloe the respect and admiration of staff and students alike.

Born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham on 12 March 1939, Professor Costeloe studied for his undergraduate degree in French at Durham University.

It was during his time at Durham that he discovered a love for the Spanish language, and this new-found interest led him to change direction in his studies.

He went on to complete a PhD in 19th-century Mexican history at Newcastle University in 1962.

In 1965, Professor Costeloe joined the University of Bristol as assistant lecturer. He was to remain at the institution for the rest of his academic career.

He was made a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1976, and was promoted to professor in 1981.

From 1993 to 1996 he also held the role of dean of arts at Bristol.

His promotion to professor coincided with a tumultuous time for the funding of higher education in the UK, and Professor Costeloe tirelessly championed the importance of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American studies throughout the 1980s.

In 1998 he retired from the university; nevertheless, he remained active in his field.

Will Fowler, a former student of Professor Costeloe's and now professor of Latin American studies at the University of St Andrews, said that his mentor had been an "indefatigable researcher".

"He almost single-handedly rescued Mexico's early national period from oblivion and forced historiographers to rethink the nature of British involvement in Mexico in the 19th century," he said.

Another former student, Chris Harris, who is now head of Hispanic studies at the University of Liverpool, said of Professor Costeloe: "He could lead, inspire and guide with a few choice words delivered in a short space of time with a smile, a good sense of humour and a warmth that were characteristic."

A tribute from colleagues at the University of Bristol says that Professor Costeloe's scholarship in his field was outstanding, but that it was his personal contribution that was most valued.

"Those of us who had the privilege of working with him - current staff, retired staff - will miss most his generosity, sound advice, and his inimitable way of telling a story, not just about people in the past but also in the present, about the famous and the less famous," the tribute says.

Professor Costeloe died on 26 August from pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor, and a daughter.


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