Peter Borsay obituary

Other Lives: History professor who studied, and wrote about, the pre-modern British town

My father, Peter Borsay, who has died aged 70, was a historian whose main interests were the pre-modern town and the history of leisure, and whose publications included The Image of Georgian Bath, published in 2000. He also wrote The English Urban Renaissance: Culture and Society in the Provincial Town 1660-1770 (1989) and A History of Leisure: The British Experience Since 1500 (2006).

Peter was born in Sale, Manchester, the third child of James, an accountant, and Gladys (nee Woodcock), who was a secretary before their marriage. The family moved several times until they settled in Warwick during Peter’s adolescence. He completed his secondary education at Warwick school where, despite his intelligence, his reports often left something to be desired and he had a tendency to be gently subversive, a trait that continued throughout his life.

Peter took a degree in history at Lancaster University, where he also did a PhD, and then began his academic career at University of Wales, Lampeter (now University of Wales, Trinity Saint David). It was there that he met Anne Howard, a fellow academic, whom he married in 1980. Weekends and holidays were spent touring historical towns with their young family, visiting National Trust properties and on trips to the Pembrokeshire coast. He was also a lifelong fan of Manchester United.

In 2007 Peter left the University of Wales to take up a professorship in history at Aberystwyth University, where he remained until his retirement in 2018. He then moved to Oxford and took great pleasure in the relaxed life of a retiree, although he never quite stopped research and writing. He enjoyed travel, with a trip to India in 2019 a particular highlight.

Walking was a great passion and Peter spent many happy hours, alone or with others, exploring countryside and coast, often discussing current affairs along the way. Afternoon tea in a proper hotel with comfortable chairs and a roaring fire was another of his favourite things. He will be remembered as a kind, compassionate man, with a keen intellect and dry sense of humour.

Peter was working on another book, The Invention of the English Landscape, at his death, and it is expected to be published posthumously.

Anne died in 2014. Peter is survived by their two children, Sarah and me, and by his brothers, Paul and Michael.

Clare Borsay

The GuardianTramp

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