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H. P. R. Finberg

(1900—1974)


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(1900–74)

Herbert Finberg was Head of the Department of English Local History at the University of Leicester, first as Reader and then as Professor, from 1952 to his retirement in 1965. His first book, Tavistock Abbey: A Study in the Social and Economic History of Devon (1951), was published at the end of his previous career as a publisher and printer. In 1952 he and W. G. Hoskins brought out a collection of essays, Devonshire Studies, which did much to establish the new techniques, insights, and approaches of the local historian.

At Leicester his department became recognized as the only centre for postgraduate studies in the subject. The series of Occasional Papers which he edited became widely influential, starting with his own paper, The Local Historian and His Theme (1952), in which he suggested that local historians should be concerned with the origins, growth, and decline of communities (see local and regional history). This concept proved to be enormously stimulating in the development of local history as an academic discipline. His paper Roman and Saxon Withington: A Study in Continuity (1955) challenged the conventional wisdom that a clean break occurred between the withdrawal of the Romans and the coming of the Saxons. Meanwhile, his work on Anglo‐Saxon charters led to the publication of The Early Charters of Devon and Cornwall (1953), The Early Charters of the West Midlands (1961), and The Early Charters of Wessex (1964). In 1955 he contributed the volume on Gloucestershire in the Hodder and Stoughton landscape history series, and two years later he edited Gloucestershire Studies.

In 1953 he became the first editor of the Agricultural History Review and was instrumental in setting the high academic standards of this new venture. But his greatest enterprise was initiating and taking responsibility for The Agrarian History of England and Wales, a massive undertaking that has taken 40 years to complete, but which covers the entire time‐span from prehistory to 1939 in eight thick volumes. Finberg was general editor for the whole series and took particular responsibility for the first volume, to which he contributed a lengthy chapter entitled ‘Anglo‐Saxon England to 1042’.

A Festschrift, Land, Church and People, edited by Joan Thirsk, was published by the British Agricultural History Society in 1970, in his honour.

Subjects: History.


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