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Emeritus Professor Roy Bridge

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 6 December 2023, of Francis Roy Bridge, Emeritus Professor of Diplomatic History.  Roy was one of the founding fathers of “International History and Politics” (IHP) in Leeds and influenced the formation and growth of this degree scheme for decades. The following tribute has been contributed by Holger Afflerbach, Professor of Modern European History.

Roy was educated at Ashton-in-Makerfield Grammar School and studied at King’s College London. He got a First in History in 1961 and subsequently gained his PhD. Immediately afterwards, in 1964, he was appointed to a lectureship at the London School of Economics by W.N. Medlicott, the internationally leading authority in Diplomatic History. The LSE was the most vibrant and prestigious place in the UK for International History and Roy spent eight formative years there.

In 1972 Roy was persuaded to transfer to Leeds by David Dilks, head of the then three-man-strong degree scheme in International History. The scheme was then only three years old and intended as a rival to the LSE. Roy was therefore the ideal person to push it forward. He started as Lecturer in April 1972, was promoted to Reader only two years later and then to Professor of Diplomatic History in 1994. Roy remodelled and influenced International History massively. He was one of its dominant figures, introducing and teaching modules of enormous breadth which covered all the ground of international history from 1494 to 1956. On the fiftieth anniversary of IHP in 2019 - Roy attended the celebrations - many former students remembered his impressive teaching and intellectual rigor as the dominant feature of their student experience in Leeds. Some of these former students went on to become professors of history themselves.

Roy’s area of scholarly expertise was the history of Austria Hungary. He wrote several internationally acclaimed books on aspects of Austro-Hungarian foreign policy in the 19th century. He authored, together with Roger Bullen, one of the most influential handbooks on 19th century International and European Great Power politics; the book went through numerous editions, sold tens of thousands of copies and was even translated into Chinese.

His achievements did not go unnoticed. He was very frequently asked to serve as External Examiner, even long after he had retired, and was invited to deliver lectures all over Europe and the US, and naturally frequently in Austria. Such was his international reputation that the Austrian Academy of Science asked him to write the chapter on the Habsburg Monarchy in Europe in its Official History of Austria Hungary 1848-1918. In 2010 Roy was awarded the “Österreichische Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst 1. Klasse” (“The Austrian Cross of Merit for Achievements in Science and Arts, 1st Class”), an honour that recognized his scholarly achievements in relation to Austrian history.

Roy was a very good-humoured, well-liked and sociable colleague. He was famous for his hospitality; he held garden parties and dinners for students and colleagues at his large Victorian House in Rodley. His hospitality was proverbial and, for many of his students, legendary.

Roy was a life-long passionate and competitive player of Bridge and, as an active member of staff, ran the Bridge Club. After his retirement from the University in 2000 he joined several other bridge clubs to pursue his hobby with zeal and ambition. He travelled frequently to Austria, where he had family ties, and continued to entertain colleagues and friends in his house in Rodley. He wrote scholarly articles and participated in international conferences, on the outbreak of war in 1914, the First World War and Edward Grey. Being widely known for his stylish English, he was also asked by Cambridge University Press to translate a weighty volume on Wilhelm II from German into English.

Roy died on 6 December 2023. He is survived by his son, Maximilian Bridge, his granddaughter Caroline and his siblings Margaret and John. He will be deeply missed by his many friends and colleagues.