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Iain R. Smith, 1939-2021

It is with great regret that the Department of History announce the death of Dr Iain Smith, aged 82.

Iain was born and brought up in Yorkshire but with a Scottish father. He gained MAs in Edinburgh University and Wisconsin (where he held a Fulbright Scholarship), and a D.Phil in Oxford, before coming to Warwick in 1969. Here he taught till 2006, retiring as Emeritus Reader. He also taught in Makere University, the premier university in central and east Africa in this period.

At Warwick his specialist courses were an Advanced Option on 'The Contraction of Britain, 1883-1889', reflecting his interest in the British colonial experience, and then a long-standing and very popular Special Subject, 'South Africa 1885-1910', whose fruit was his standard work on The Origins of the South African War (1996). His other major publications were The Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, 1886-90 (1986) and, in two volumes, The Siege of Mafeking (2001).

He was a visiting lecturer in Cape Town (1989), Tbilisi (Georgia) and Helsinki, Visiting Research Fellow in Pretoria (1993, 2001) and Visiting Fellow in Mansfield College, Oxford (1997).

From 1980 till 1995 Iain was a member of the Council and Publications Committee of the Historical Association, whose series 'New Appreciations in History' he edited.

His wide range of interests and active nature were shown also in his long service as a leading figure in the Leamington Music Society. He married in 1968 Teresa Halikowska, then a Polish student in Oxford, and together they made their home in Leamington an all but open house for lovers of music, literature and discussion of all kinds. Teresa died of a stroke in November 2020 and Iain has suffered the same fate even more suddenly, to the deep sorrow of the many friends they had made over the years.

I should like to supplement these statements about Iain's career with an appreciation of a colleague remarkable for his warmth, energy and good nature. He could express his views lucidly, indeed forcefully, on the wide variety of matters which engaged him without ever arousing personal rancour, a rare gift: I never heard him make a disparaging or sarcastic comment about anyone. He had attended a Quaker secondary school, though the family were not Quakers and in 1974 he spent a year in Vienna looking after the business of a Quaker institution there. He retained the traditional Quaker values of humanity and tolerance, if not the Quaker faith, throughout his life. Having opted for the humanities only after completing Science A levels, he was a resourceful and practical man with a very wide range of knowledge and skills, which he was always ready to use to benefit his friends and, of course, his students - he was an exceptional teacher, whose solicitous concern extended in many cases well beyond former students' years at Warwick. His marriage with Teresa, a prominent figure in the Polish community regionally and beyond, was a harmonious partnership of strong personalities in which each retained the best side of their respective national characters.

Their three children, Stefan, Milena and Adrian, share their outward-looking, adventurous spirit and Stefan and Adrian in particular learnt Polish well and have spent much time in Poland. My thoughts are with them in their double loss.

Professor Robin Okey, December 2021

As well as being a brilliant scholar of South Africa, Iain will be remembered by many as an inspiring and engaging teacher. His final year modules on The Contraction of Britain and South Africa were always over-subscribed but he was equally committed to the first year core module in modern world history. Iain always put the student experience first, long before there were national surveys measuring student experience or named posts within departments. Iain was at his best in student-facing roles, serving as one of the Department's first senior tutors for example. No student query or concern was too trivial and Iain devoted considerable time and energy to supporting students' academic and personal well-being. His prowess as a teacher was recognised by the Department which named one of the student prizes after him.

After his retirement Iain kept in touch with the Department attending research seminars and other university activities. Whenever we met, he would probe me sharply on the latest developments and directions in teaching. He was dismissive of bureaucracy but passionate about developing an exciting and innovative teaching portfolio.

The Department's strength in African and global history owes much to Iain's pioneering work.

Professor Sarah Richardson, December 2021

So sad to hear of Iain’s passing. I read history 1982/85 and was President of the History Society in my 2nd and 3rd years. The department was populated with an abundance of characters during this period, Scarisbrick, Capp, Cohen, Hinton, Okey, Berghahn, Kamen, Clifton, Kochan, Lewis, Lowry, Washbrook, an amazing department.

Iain was an amazing individual, always offering advice on a personal and academic level. He was my personal tutor, inviting me to his home on occasions to enjoy his wife’s Polish cuisine, play table tennis and chat in French with his eldest son.

He was truly instrumental in my formative years and I am sure to many others too. He is truly missed.

David Cooper Chartered FCSI

Dr Iain Smith

Dr Iain Smith