Mark Ormrod obituary

Other lives: Expert in Britain’s long history of immigration who helped to change the school curriculum

My friend and colleague Mark Ormrod, who has died of cancer aged 62, was professor of medieval history at the University of York and a prolific scholar who helped to change the school history curriculum, creating content focusing on the history of immigration.

In 2011 he published a groundbreaking biography of Edward III, whose reign from 1327 until 1377 was particularly long and eventful, encompassing the Black Death and wars with France. Mark’s study combined unrivalled knowledge of unpublished archives with the ability to address difficult subjects with clarity and verve. This was just one of more than 100 publications.

Mark’s dedication to writing was indefatigable, even after he fell ill. In 2020 alone two new monographs were delivered to the publishers, together with a volume of essays he co-edited: Migrants in Medieval England, which reflects his commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship.

Mark was born in Neath, Wales, to David Ormrod, a horological engineer, and his wife, Margaret (nee Billings), a housewife. He was educated at Neath boys’ grammar school and then took a degree in history at King’s College London, graduating with a first in 1979. He later did a DPhil at Oxford.

In 1984 he took a lecturing position at the University of Sheffield and then at Queen’s University, Belfast, and Cambridge. He arrived at York in 1990 as a lecturer and was appointed professor of medieval history in 1995. At York Mark became director of the Centre for Medieval Studies, head of the Department of History and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Mark was an enthusiastic supporter of the York Festival of Ideas, which was launched in 2011 and became an annual event. He served as general editor of the York Medieval Press.

In 2013 Mark was instrumental in the creation of a doctoral training centre, the White Rose College for the Arts and Humanities, which is shared with the universities of Leeds and Sheffield.

He also built a lasting research partnership with the National Archives to ensure that their major series of government records were made available to the public online. The last of these projects, England’s Immigrants 1350-1550, with the Historical Association and the Runnymede Trust, contributed to changes in the national school curriculum in 2015, focusing on the long history of immigration in Britain. This work also led to the creation of the Runnymede Trust’s Our Migration Story, which won the Guardian Award for Research Impact in 2019.

Above all Mark was committed to supporting younger scholars. He supervised more than 40 PhD students and research assistants, raising large grants for projects that supported their career development. His tolerance and good humour guided all that he did: for him kindness and cleverness were never incompatible.

In 1995 he met Richard Dobson, a school adviser in maths. They entered into a civil partnership in 2006. Mark is survived by Richard and by his parents and his brothers, Nicholas and Jonathan.

Sarah Rees Jones

The GuardianTramp

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