Tuesday, 11 March 2014
Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to expert of its Anglo-Saxon past, scholar of its Medieval History and victim of pancreatic cancer called Professor Nicholas Brooks
Nicholas, who practised the kind of scholarship which reached out to the public, has died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 73.
What you possibly didn't know about Nicholas, that he :
* was born during the Second World War in Virginia Water, Surrey, the son of a talented pianist and figure-skater mother and a consultant physician father..
* attended boys' public school, Winchester College, where the brilliant Senior History Master, Harold Walker taught and became fascinated by Kent's historic landscape while staying at the family's holiday cottage which lay on the continuation of the Roman-built Watling Street, south of Canterbury.
* studied history at Magdalen College, Oxford and was a keen oarsman, representing the College at international regattas in Copenhagen and Oslo before graduating in 1961 and while working on his DPhil, at the age of 23 in 1964, was appointed to his first academic post, at the University of St Andrews, where he met and married Chlöe Willis and stayed until the age of 44 in 1985.
* as an archaeologist, identified one of King Alfred's forts and discovered the structure of another's ramparts and co-authored a paper with his old teacher, Harold Walker about the unsuspected information about arms and armour depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.
* completed his doctorate on the Anglo-Saxon Canterbury charters at the age of 28 in 1969 which he published as 'The Early History of the Church of Canterbury' in 1984 which, through its study of the records of donations of landed property to the Church by lay benefactors, helped to explain its importance as a great institutional landowner with huge political clout.
* in 1978, became General Editor of the series 'Studies in the Early History of Britain', which was important in establishing an approach to Anglo-Saxon England that understood it in the context of the whole of the British Isles and its contacts with continental Europe.
* in 1985, at the age of 44, was appointed to the Chair of Medieval History at Birmingham University and worked there until he retired in 2004 and in 2009 with the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver artefacts, was appointed to the panel co-ordinating research into the finds and convincingly explained its apparently odd composition, with only the hilts and pommels of swords, not the blades, in terms of its being the 'working capital' of a department of a royal armoury in the Kingdom of Mercia near Lichfield.
* published the full edition of the 185 Canterbury charters, completed after 30 years of editorial labour with the help of his colleague Susan Kelly and support of the British Academy, an archival hoard which brought to light early medieval English history in all its guises: religion, the Old English language, law and politics, landscape and economy and connections with Continental Europe.
* threw light on the Medieval history of the County of Kent, where I live, in as study of the effectiveness of the communication strategies used by Kentishmen in the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 and in another study proved that works ordered by medieval kings to maintain the bridge over the River Medway two miles away from me in Rochester, and persisting in various administrative incarnations until the Bridge Trust today, originated in late Roman arrangements for the bridge.
* was, from 2008, a key member of the Lyminge Archaeological Project Steering Committee and spoke to volunteers on his visit to the dig in 2013, where his detailed knowledge of the history of the Anglo-Saxon Monastery was invaluable and got stuck in on one of the hottest days of the year and was thrilled to find Saxon vessel glass in a sunken-featured building.
* like King Alfred, left his imprint in good works, in his case in an awesome catalogue of published scholarship : http://opac.regesta-imperii.de/lang_en/autoren.php?name=Brooks%2C+Nicholas+P.
Nicholas died in hospital on the 2nd February. The pancreatic cancer from which he suffered remains the cinderella of cancers in comparison with bowel, breast and prostate. Only more funding and public awareness will lead to earlier detection and, ultimately, better survival rates. It is often called the 'silent killer' since many of its symptoms mirror other less critical illnesses and doctors may not recognise these early enough, resulting in lost time before diagnosis and a terminal outcome. It kills 7,900, in Britain each year with 75% of cases in those aged 65 years and over.
Last year, Maggie Watts, who lost her husband to pancreatic cancer at the age of just 48 in 2009, launched a UK Government E-petition to push it further up the political agenda.
The petition is a call to :
'Provide more funding and awareness for pancreatic cancer to aid long overdue progress in earlier detection and, ultimately, improved survival rates'
Maggie speaking to ITN : http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/update/2014-01-21/pancreatic-cancer-campaign
So, in memory of Nicholas, please sign Maggie's petition and spread it to family, friends and colleagues though facebook, twitter and other social media to help her get her 100,000 signatures by April 8th : http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48389