Reporter 442, 8 November 1999
Resolution adopted by the Senate (20 October 1999) on the retirement of
Professor Roy Bridge
Roy Bridge came to Leeds in April 1972 to join a three-man International History section within the School of History, following the decision of the then Vice-Chancellor, Lord Boyle, to expand this area of the University's activities to rival those of the London School of Economics. Educated at Ashton in Makerfield Grammar School and at King's College, London, where he took a First in History in 1961 and subsequently gained his PhD, Roy had been appointed assistant lecturer in international history at the LSE in 1964, and lecturer in 1967. In those days, under its head, Professor W N Medlicott, the department was the powerhouse of international history, laying great emphasis on diplomatic history and upon archival research. Its impact on the young scholar was considerable, and he has proudly carried its banner ever since.
At Leeds, he took a leading part in re-modelling the International History degree, pressing the importance of breadth and depth: a chronological range which ran only from 1870 to 1956 was pushed back first to 1814 and then to 1494. That the London seedling was so successfully transplanted and improved was in large measure due to the phenomenal breadth of his historical knowledge and to his ability to teach with authority across more than three and a half centuries of European history. Such was the success of the new degree that, in pre-modular days, it frequently secured the best history results in the United Kingdom. Roy bore his full share of the administrative burdens of the scheme, carrying out run-of-the-mill chores with good humour and enthusiasm. In the interim year of 1991-92, between the departure of one head of section and the arrival of another, he took responsibility for modularising the International History and Politics degree, designing double-modules to minimise the drawbacks of what he saw as excessive and untimely examinations. He was awarded a readership in 1974 and a personal chair in diplomatic history in 1994.
Roy has long been recognised as a leading international authority on the foreign policy of the Austro-Hungarian empire before the First World War. His first two books, Great Britain and Austria-Hungary: a diplomatic history (1972) and From Sadowa to Sarajevo: the foreign policy of Austria-Hungary 1866-1914 (1972) immediately established a major reputation. His ability to write for the student and not solely the specialist has resulted in a string of works for the popular market, including a best-selling Historical Association pamphlet on the origins of the First World War and a student text-book, jointly written with the late Roger Bullen, whose sales stand at over 20,000. His recent study The Habsburg Monarchy among the Great Powers, 1815-1918 (1990) is the standard work on the subject. Invitations to lecture in Germany, Austria and the United States have been many, and he was signally honoured by the Austrian Academy of Sciences when they invited him to write the chapter on Great Power Diplomacy in volume 6 of the Official History of the Habsburg Monarchy 1848-1918. His innumerable external examinerships attest to his high standing as a knowledgeable, sympathetic but fair adjudicator on undergraduate and postgraduate endeavours.
A familiar figure in the senior common room, Roy has been an active member of the community of scholars; for many years he ran the Bridge Club. Devoted to the concept of international history, and adept both at interesting his own students and at selling its charms to non-specialists, he has never made any pretence of being anything less than a dedicated scholar. To fall under his care has been a novel experience for many freshers, but they have uniformly come to appreciate the values of his teaching and the depth of his concern for their well-being. His hospitality is legendary, and the Rodley garden parties are the stuff both of history and of fiction. We wish him a long, happy and productive retirement - much of it, no doubt, to be spent in the Viennese archives he knows and loves. He will be greatly missed.
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