David Cesarani, 1956-2015

A leading historian of modern European history has died

November 12, 2015
Obituary: David Cesarani, 1956-2015

David Cesarani was born in London on 13 November 1956 and educated at Latymer Upper School before going on to Queens’ College, Cambridge, to study history. This was followed by an MA in Jewish history at Columbia University in New York and a DPhil at St Antony’s College, Oxford.

Appointed Montague Burton fellow in Jewish studies at the University of Leeds (1983-86), Professor Cesarani went on to work at Queen Mary University of London (1986-89) and to serve as director of the Institute of Contemporary History and the Wiener Library in London for two separate periods (1992-95 and 1996-2000), broken by a year at the University of Manchester. He later became professor of modern Jewish history at the University of Southampton (2000-04) and then research professor of history at Royal Holloway, University of London until his death.

Bryan Cheyette, professor of English at the University of Reading, recalled Professor Cesarani as a man of “passionate intellect and wicked, twinkling, astringent humour” who once asked him at a party, “Don’t you want to know everything!?”, adding that “the disappointment in his voice at my lack of intellectual curiosity has stayed with me as an inspiration and a challenge for over three decades”.

In his early work, Professor Cheyette continued, Professor Cesarani was a leading figure among “the first professional Jewish historians in the UK [who] rejected conventional Anglo-Jewish historiography with its apologetic stress on ‘Jewish contributions to European civilization’ and untroubled acculturation”. His edited volume, The Making of Modern Anglo-Jewry (1990), was a landmark example of this trend.

At around the same time, Professor Cesarani became the researcher for the All-Party Parliamentary War Crimes Group (1987-91). This led to his book Justice Delayed: How Britain Became a Refuge for Nazi War Criminals (1992) and a shift towards wider issues of European history, which he explored in his acclaimed biographies Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind (1998) and Eichmann: His Life and Crimes (2004).

Alongside his books, extensive journalism and many outreach activities, Professor Cesarani was an active and highly effective campaigner for war crimes legislation, Holocaust education and many other causes. Professor Cheyette described him as an academic who “understood what it was to make an ‘impact’ before making an impact was turned into a metric nightmare” and as “par excellence, a public intellectual, which meant that his boundless talents were not confined merely to the academy”.

Professor Cesarani died after surgery to remove a tumour on 25 October and is survived by his wife Dawn Waterman, a son and a daughter.

matthew.reisz@tesglobal.com

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
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Analyst

Greenwich School Of Management Ltd

PhD Research Fellow in Medical Physics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Senior Knowledge Officer

European Association For International Education

Postdoctoral position in Atmospheric and Space Physics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework

people dressed in game of thrones costume

Old Germanic languages are back in vogue, but what value are they to a modern-day graduate? Alice Durrans writes