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Geoffrey Wilson

Geoffrey Wilson was the founding father of the Warwick Law School in 1967. His academic career began at Queens College Cambridge where he graduated with a first class degree that singled him out as an exceptional student with a brilliant mind. After graduation, came a fellowship at Queens’, a lectureship in law in the University of Cambridge teaching constitutional and administrative law. He also qualified at the Bar and joined Gray’s Inn. Geoffrey Wilson’s first book Cases and Materials in Constitutional and Administrative Law Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966 set a new direction centred around materials other than law reports and decided cases that considerably broadened the study of constitutional and administrative law. A similar approach is evident in his Cases and Materials on the English Legal System.

Under Warwick’s first Vice Chancellor, the late Lord Butterworth, Geoffrey Wilson was appointed as the first Warwick Law Professor with the remit of founding and developing the study of law at Warwick. Geoffrey set the direction of the School from its inception in 1967 that made Warwick a pioneer in English legal education. This legacy remains today.

Geoffrey's inspiration in his vision of a new Law School broke with the past tradition of legal education and under his leadership the School soon enjoyed an international reputation. The Warwick approach colloquially known as “law in context” focused on social, economic and legal problems and the way lawyers worked on such problems helped shape the syllabus. The approach defined teaching at Warwick and the assortment of materials that were produced formed the basis of many modules. Existing textbooks were unable to provide the breadth or scope and depth of understanding required for critical analysis and discussion. The teaching focus soon gave way to research activities defined by a broader understanding of law and social problems than orthodox Law Schools provided.

Warwick Law School was also a pioneer in making European and international affairs part of the original curriculum. There was both a comparative dimension as well as research for its own sake in terms of addressing social problems in all their different dimensions. Warwick was also pioneering in the way it established a European version of the Law degree, later recognised by the Erasmus and now Socrates funding arrangements of the EU. Geoffrey broke the mould of many contemporaries after the second-world war by recognising that the new Germany brought important values to our understanding of law and that German law should be integral to the main syllabus at Warwick. The Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) funded Lektoren continue to this day to be a feature of undergraduate law teaching at Warwick and a number of modules have been inspired by the curiosity of understanding foreign legal systems.

Warwick's distinctive reputation owed much to the recruitment of staff from overseas. Both staff and students reflected a diverse group from all over the world. Geoffrey Wilson remained at Warwick throughout his entire academic career. He held a Von Humboldt scholarship and was a visiting fellow at the University of Freiburg. He was one of the first lawyers to serve on the SSRC panel law and society and pioneered cross-cutting research between various disciplines. Geoffrey retired in 1997 but continued to live locally and maintained an interest in the Law School until his death in October 2015.