Eminent dean and scholar whose historical work is published soon

Michael Brock

Michael Brock

First published in News

AN HISTORIAN and prominent figure amongst Oxford’s colleges has died, aged 94.

Michael Brock CBE was a long-serving member of Corpus Christi College, deputy-president of Wolfson College and warden of Nuffield College.

He formed a formidable partnership with his wife, Eleanor, to become the leading authority on former prime minister Herbert Asquith, publishing a collection of letters he wrote to Venetia Stanley.

And their latest work, an edited version of Margot Asquith’s First World War diaries from 1914 to 1916, will be published in June.

Michael George Brock was born on March 9, 1920, in Bromley, Kent, to parents Sir Lawrence, a British government civil servant, and Margery (nee Hodder-Williams).

He had an older brother Patrick, and younger sister Janet.

He attended preparatory school before going to Wellington College, Berkshire, from 1934 and moved to Oxford in 1938, to read classics at Corpus Christi College.

He postponed his degree when But when the Second World War broke out, joining the Army’s Middlesex Regiment in 1940.

He was pulled from his unit in North Africa in 1943 due to illness, just before it went into action at Anzio and completed the war as an adjutant based in Cheshire.

In September 1945 he returned to Corpus Christi, switching his degree to modern history.

Post-war the college was a busy place as students returned from the war to study, with books and food in short supply. He earned a first class degree with honours in 1948.

His affiliation with the college would last until 1966, as a junior research fellow and senior tutor, proctor, librarian and dean. It was later considered by him to be the “golden years” of his time in academia.

On July 28, 1949 he married Eleanor Morrison. They married in Dufftown in the Scottish highlands, where Mr Brock’s grandfather had his home.

They had first met in 1940 when he came to the city to visit his friend and her brother George.

He and his wife moved to Merton Street and had their first child, George, in 1951.

They moved to Linton Road in 1952 and had their second child, David, in 1955, followed by Paul in 1959.

In 1966 Mr Brock left Corpus Christi to become political theorist and philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin’s deputy president and bursar at the newly established Wolfson College. It was a strong partnership and Mr Brock noted Berlin as a “great mentor”.

One of his responsibilities was to organise the assessments of architecture and he wryly recalled years later ordering barring Wolfson’s officers from study trips to Helinski for fear of complaints about junketing. He was made an honourary fellow after departing his post.

That year he took a sabatical as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and lectured at Haifa, Tel Aviv and the University of The Negev.

He then moved to Italy to take up residence in Bologna, near Lake Como, so he and his wife could start their major work of editing letters written by former Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, which were kept in Rome.

Written in the years before and during the First World War, they were addressed to Venetia Stanley, daughter of Lord Stanley, the fourth Baron Sheffield.

The collection of between 500 and 600 communications, of which only Asquith’s survive, make an almost day-to-day diary of the events of the time, including Britain’s entry into the war, the Dardanelles Campaign and the rallying of Italy to the side of the Allies.

Returning to England, he then took a short-lived post at the University of Exeter in 1977 to oversee the merger between its school of education and St Luke’s College of Education.

But in less than two years he was lured back to Oxford by a job offer for warden of Nuffield College in 1978.

He succeeded Sir Norman Chester, a scholar and former Oxford City Council member.

He also edited volumes six and seven of the History of the University of Oxford, sat on the Hebdomadal Council, the main executive body of Oxford until 2000, and was awarded a CBE by the Queen in 1981.

He left Nuffield in July 1988 and became warden of St George’s House, within Windsor Castle. He held the position for five years.

In retirement he moved with his wife to Ritchie Court, Oxford, and continued his historical research. He was a voracious reader and also enjoyed walking, as well as American comedy performers.

Corpus Christi College was also to establish the Michael Brock Junior Research Fellowship in honour.

Michael Brock died of natural causes in Green Gates Nursing Home, Oxford, on April 30. In the days afterwards, his three former Oxford colleges flew their flags at half-mast.

He is survived by his wife, who is 92, sister, three sons and four grandchildren, Paddy, Ollie, Ben and Polly.

A cremation , attended by immeidate family only, took place in Oxford on Thursday, May 8.

A memorial service will be held at Corpus Christi College, Merton Street, on June 24 at 2.30pm.

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