Kenneth Fowler obituary

Other lives: Scholar of the hundred years war and faculty dean for history at Edinburgh University

My friend and teacher Kenneth Fowler, who has died aged 88, was an eminent historian of the hundred years war, and a leading light in the teaching of history over more than three decades at Edinburgh University.

Ken’s parents, Ronald and Ethel (nee McMahon), lived next door to the large grocer’s shop they kept at Clayton-le-Woods in Lancashire, and sent Ken and his older brother, David, later a successful businessman, to the local primary school, from where Ken went on to boarding school in Derbyshire.

He was taught history at Leeds University by John Le Patourel, who by then had fashioned a centre for medieval studies. It was under Le Patourel’s supervision that Ken completed his thesis on Henry of Grosmont, lieutenant of Edward III during his wars in France. Many years later, Grosmont formed the subject of one of three major books that Ken would write.

In 1954, Ken met Ann von Zweigbergk, from Sweden, during a tour of Romanesque churches in Poitou, the historic region around Poitiers in western France. A long romance followed, during which Ken was briefly arrested in Franco’s Spain for sharing a kiss with Ann in public. They were married in Stockholm in 1959 and moved to Edinburgh, though Ken had already started teaching at the university the year before.

As a teacher and colleague at Edinburgh, where he was made professor in 1974, Ken was enthusiastic and convivial. All his ebullience and good humour were called on during the grim 1980s, when he served as faculty dean.

Early retirement in 1988 restored his energies and brought his practical streak to the fore. Living either in Edinburgh or in the house he and Ann had bought in the Borders, he found time to complete a study of mercenaries during the hundred years war, in between much wall-building and tree-planting.

They spent many of these years working happily together – Ann as a professional translator, Ken on his book – and her death in 2017 from Parkinson’s was a hard blow. Archiving Ann’s life became one of his favourite activities in his final years.

David also died in 2017. Ken is survived by his children, Simon and Emma, and his grandchildren, Andrew, Graeme and Matilda.

Graeme Small

The GuardianTramp

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