Maurice Warwick Beresford

(1920—2005) economic historian

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(1920–2005) [Bi]

Landscape historian who discovered the lost villages of England. Born on the northern fringes of Birmingham, he attended Bishop Vesey's Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield and Jesus College, Cambridge, where he gained a first‐class degree in history in 1941. Having been introduced while in Cambridge to the idea of finding history on the ground, he took this way of thinking out into the landscapes of midlands England and beyond. He found that many villages which flourished in the Middle Ages had disappeared by the 16th century. In his book The lost villages of England (1954, London: Lutterworth) he argued that they had been depopulated because of the expansion of sheep farming, the enclosure of fields, and the eviction of villagers by acquisitive landlords. It was a theme he followed throughout his professional life, first as a lecturer in economic history at Leeds University (from 1948) and later as a reader (1955) and professor (1959). Together with John Hurst, he carried out extensive excavations at Wharram Percy on the Yorkshire Wolds and edited Deserted medieval villages (1971, London: Lutterworth). During the 1950s Beresford's interests moved beyond villages to include medieval planned towns in Gascony, English boroughs, and the development of Leeds. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1985 and served as a commissioner for the RCHME. Outside of the academic world he served on the National Consumer Council and the local review committee of Leeds prison.


The Guardian, 22 December 2005

Subjects: History — Archaeology.

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