Polly Corrigan obituary

Other lives: Historian fascinated by the Soviet era

My daughter, Polly Corrigan, who has died of cancer aged 45, was a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at King’s College London, leading seminars in intelligence and war studies.

Polly was born in London, the elder of two children, and grew up around Camden Town, attending Haverstock school. Her father, Michael Corrigan, and I both worked as journalists. In 1992, Polly spent a year teaching English in nascent capitalist Moscow, nurturing a lifelong fascination with the outgoing Soviet system.

At Liverpool University (1993-96) she collected a 2:1 degree in history and an entourage of admirers who joined her ever-growing group of friends. These included a fellow student, Rhys Morgan (now director of education at the Royal Academy of Engineering), whom Polly married in 2005.

She became an intern at the Guardian in 1996 and a writer with the dotcom company Wide Learning in 1998. In 2003 she joined Telegraph Online, becoming its first features editor, and early on inadvertently posting an entire Jeffrey Archer novel before publication, an error that earned only the briefest of reprimands.

She stayed in the job for six years, but then her life changed direction with the birth of her children, Martha (in 2006) and Rosie (in 2009). In 2009, she gave up full-time work to devote herself to their care.

Three years ago, she embarked on a doctoral thesis at KCL department of war studies. The subject, the systems behind the Great Terror in the USSR in the 1930s, gave her a leading role within an international group of academics reconsidering how a regime promising utopian-style freedom instead delivered terror and tyranny. She contributed a chapter, Walking the Razor’s Edge: The Origins of Soviet Censorship, to the forthcoming Bloomsbury publication, The Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution, Illiberal Liberation, 1917-1941, due to be published in 2020.

The day before her death, she told Twitter how much she had “really enjoyed” writing her first journal article, just published in Europe-Asia Studies, describing her visits to Kyiv and Georgia to access recently released Soviet archives from the 1930s that informed her thesis. Even at this late stage, she believed it would be the first of many such papers.

Polly was opinionated, uncompromising and funny. She combined care, generosity and compassion with intelligence and a capacity for deep, enduring and affirming friendships both within and outside her family.

As well as her husband and children, she is survived by me, and her brother, James.

Jane Feinmann

The GuardianTramp

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