Ray Millward, 1917-2016

A leading authority on the British landscape has died

March 31, 2016
Obituary: Ray Millward, 1917-2016

Ray Millward was born on 12 May 1917 and educated in Macclesfield, Cheshire, before going on to study at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge (1937-40).

He started work as assistant master at King's School in Macclesfield (1940-41), took on a more senior position at St Lawrence College in Ramsgate (1941-55) and then became a lecturer in geography at the Wigan and District Mining and Technical College (1945-47).

It was at this point that Mr Millward moved to what is now the University of Leicester as an assistant lecturer in geography. He was to remain there for the rest of his career, retiring as a reader in 1982.

He played a significant role in the 1957 transformation of what was then University College, Leicester into an institution with a royal charter and degree-awarding powers and in forging geography into a modern, well-equipped department for teaching and research. Student numbers in the discipline leaped 12-fold between 1950 and 1980.

A prolific writer with a strong interest in European regionalism, Mr Millward produced a benchmark account of diversity within northern Europe in Scandinavian Lands (1964). Yet he is probably better known for his work on the historical geography of Britain.

He collaborated closely with W. G. Hoskins on his pioneering Making of the English Landscape series, jointly editing several volumes and producing one of his own on Lancashire (1955). He wrote equally insightfully about his adoptive county, contributing two chapters to Leicester and its Region (1972) before going on to produce the History of Leicestershire and Rutland (1985).

During the 1970s, Mr Millward joined forces with a colleague, physical geographer Adrian Robinson, to develop two further major series of 10 volumes in all, Landscapes of Britain and The Regions of Britain.

For a more popular audience he wrote the Shell Book of the British Coast (1983) and contributed extensively to the Reader’s Digest volumes Discovering Britain (1982) and Guide to Places of the World (1987). He also left an account of his deep Quaker beliefs in his contribution to the volume My Life, My Faith (2010).

An enthusiastic and much-loved teacher, Mr Millward was particularly effective on field trips and excursions for both students and the general public, where his forte was using close observation combined with archival research to reveal how the landscape was a palimpsest on which the mark of succeeding generations could always be seen even as each tried to overwrite those who came before.

Mr Millward died on 25 January and is survived by his wife Helen, four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


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