University of Sussex 'founding father' Asa Briggs dies

The social historian, who was second v-c of Sussex and later chancellor of the Open University, was 94

March 16, 2016
Lord Asa Briggs, former vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex
Source: University of Sussex

Asa Briggs, one of the most prominent university leaders of his generation, has died aged 94.

Lord Briggs was one of the most respected and influential figures in post-war British academic life.

An acclaimed writer on the recent social and cultural history of Britain and the history of broadcasting, he was also a “founding father” of the University of Sussex who went on to become its second vice-chancellor (1967–76).

He later served as both the provost of Worcester College, Oxford (1976-91) and chancellor of the Open University (1978–94). He became a life peer – as Lord Briggs of Lewes – in 1976.

Sussex’s current vice-chancellor, Michael Farthing, described him as “a visionary and a dear friend” with a “stellar career” who “contributed to an enormous number of different universities, different ideas to his discipline of history, and on a much wider scale to higher education in general”.

Lord Briggs, who died on 15 March, was born in Yorkshire in 1921 and served in the intelligence corps at Bletchley Park during the war before he began his rise though the academic ranks.

He worked at Oxford, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the US and the University of Leeds before joining Sussex as pro-vice-chancellor in 1961.

His publications included the celebrated trilogy Victorian People, Victorian Cities and Victorian Things; A Social History of England; and a five-volume History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom.

He remained an active researcher to the end and had completed four books since his 90th birthday, including a memoir of his time at Bletchley titled Secret Days. The Complete Poems of Asa Briggs: Far Beyond the Pennine Way is due to be published next month.

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