February 25th, 2021
Following the sad news of the passing of Professor Dick Geary on Sunday 21 February, Professor Ross Balzaretti and colleagues at the University of Nottingham Department of History remember his life and works.
Dick Geary was born in December 1945 in Leicester. He studied at King’s College Cambridge and, before coming to Nottingham in 1989, he worked at Lancaster University where he was Head of German Studies. While at Nottingham he was Head of History in the early 1990s and for some years Director of the Institute for the Study of Slavery (ISOS).
He was a remarkable scholar and intellectual whose research for much of his career encompassed the history of Marxism, modern German social and political history, in particular the history of unemployment and labour protest in twentieth-century Germany, and comparative European labour history. He not only made key contributions to the field of comparative labour history in the UK and further afield; he also encouraged and facilitated the work of other scholars. Latterly his work took a notable new turn into comparative global labour history, and he added Portuguese to his other languages so that he could research the history of slavery in Brazil, a country he got to know firsthand.
Dick published at least ten books including on Karl Kautsky, a Marxist philosopher, his pathbreaking European Labour Protest, and a very well-known book on Hitler and Nazism in 1993, which was much used in sixth forms across the country and translated into many languages. His international reputation for shrewd work in comparative history, written concisely and based on wide knowledge, bore fruit in a very popular comparative labour history course he ran for many years with Chris Wrigley.
He was an inspiring teacher, encouraging hard work and much thought, and helped many students in difficulties. He was a spellbinding lecturer, much in demand for public events, and a wonderful colleague who was always very encouraging to younger members of staff.
For many years he could reliably be found in the University Club at lunchtime with his friend Nick Hewitt, where he captivated many with sparkling conversation, thoughts about the state of the University and unforgettable anecdotes.
He had played at Junior Wimbledon and captained the Blues at football at Cambridge. He was a lifelong Leicester City Football Club supporter, checking that team’s result in internet cafes when in Brazil. Dick is sorely missed by his colleagues at Nottingham.
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