Professor Justin Champion RIP

With great sadness the Historical Association has learned of the death of our former President, Professor Justin Champion on 10 June after a long illness. Justin was President of the Historical Association from May 2014 until May 2017 and he was a very popular choice, partly because of his background in Public History. Justin was well known for his radio and television appearances including on Melvyn Bragg’s BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time when he spoke on a wide range of subjects including the Bedlam Hospital, Miracles, The Trial of Charles I, the Apocalypse, and Divine Right Monarchy. He was also a regular contributor to the Today Programme, Night Waves and Radio 5 Live.

 He also presented a Radio 4 programme on duelling, Pistols at Dawn, and his television presentations included a programme on the 1665 Great Plague of London for Channel 4, which won a Royal Television Society Award in 2001. Also for Channel 4 in 2003 he presented a series on the History of Kings and Queens, a documentary on contemporary Royal Finances (Secrets of the Palace, Channel 4, 2002) and contributed to programmes on Isaac Newton, The Enlightenment, the History of Science, and How Christianity Came to Britain as well as appearing on the popular archaeology programme Time Team.

 Justin attended King Edward VI Grammar School, Southampton and studied History at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. In 1990 he took up a post at Royal Holloway, London University, where he later served as Head of History between 2005 and 2010. He also set up the London Centre for Public History and Heritage at Royal Holloway in 2016 and served on the Historical Association’s Public History Committee. He was a committed generous mentor to his undergraduates and postgraduates, many of whom have gone on to make careers as Historians. He will be greatly missed by his students, colleagues and many friends.

 His research interests included the History of Scholarship, epidemics and society, eighteenth century republicanism and the nature and purpose of public history. Justin published books on a range of subjects including the philosopher John Toland and the Great Plague of 1665. He also taught popular courses on the History of Political Ideas from Plato to Rousseau and a Special Subject on Blasphemy and Irreligion in the English Enlightenment.

 Justin received many awards for his work and in 2003–04 he held the John Hinckley Chair in British History at John Hopkins University, Baltimore. On retiring from Royal Holloway he was awarded an emeritus chair and in 2018 he was presented with the Historical Association’s Medlicott Medal for services to History. Justin was also known for his passion for radical history. In 2015 he took a prominent role in the commemorations for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and in 2019 he delivered the first Christopher Hill Memorial Lecture. It is a measure of his personal commitment to radicalism that his Twitter handle was @monarchomach – the early modern term for the opponents of tyrannical rulers.

Jackie Eales, President of the Historical Association 2011–14