Historian and former SHS committee member John Archer dies

Members of the Social History Society will be saddened by the news that our friend and colleague, Dr John Archer, died suddenly on 24 February, aged sixty-six.

A long-standing member of the Society, John was a former member of the Executive Committee (2001–4). He taught for twenty-three years at Edge Hill College (now Edge Hill University) in Lancashire.

John was well known as a historian of rural crime. His first monograph, By a Flash and a Scare (Oxford University Press, 1990), a meticulous study of Norfolk and Suffolk, examined the three most series crime of protest in the nineteenth-century countryside — arson, animal maiming and poaching — and showed how rural society in East Anglia was shaped by terror and oppression in equal measure.

In his textbook, Social Unrest and Popular Protest in England, 1780–1840 (Cambridge University Press, 2000), John commented that the study of rural protest had ‘shown itself to be remarkably vigorous and innovative’. He was too modest to say so, but his own work had contributed hugely to the vitality of the field.

More recently, John had turned his attention to urban violence and policing. His study of Victorian Liverpool, The Monster Evil (Liverpool University Press, 2011) is as notable for its sensitivity as for its depth of insight.

John will be greatly missed by his many friends in SHS. We will remember not just his excellent scholarship, but his warmth, kindness and generosity.


Dr Andrew Davies
University of Liverpool