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Obituary: Donald Winch (1935-2017)

Donald Winch, Emeritus Professor of Intellectual History and one of the early members of academic faculty at the University of Sussex, has died at the age of 82.

Writing in the Guardian after Donald's death on 12 June, Professor Stefan Collini described his former Sussex colleague as "one of the world’s leading historians of political economy".

A beneficiary of the 1944 Education Act, Donald attended a local grammar school and was awarded a state scholarship to study at the London School of Economics (LSE). Another scholarship then enabled him to study at Princeton.

After stints at Berkeley and at Edinburgh, he joined the new University of Sussex in 1963 as a Lecturer in Economics. He became Professor of the History of Economic Thought in 1969, a post he held until his retirement in 2000.

Donald was Dean of the School of Social Sciences from 1968-74 (“six fairly eventful years”, as he later described them) and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Arts) from 1986-89.

His main undergraduate teaching centred on one of the School’s compulsory ‘contextual’ courses: Concepts, Methods, and Values in the Social Sciences. This enabled him to extend his interest in the methodology and history of economics into a broader concern with the history of the social sciences from the Enlightenment onwards.

He continued to teach economics well into the 1980s, though by then most of his teaching, and all of his research, was in intellectual history – which became a distinctive undergraduate major subject at Sussex in the 1970s.

Donald was the author of a number of path-breaking works, including Economics and Policy (1969), Adam Smith’s Politics (1978) and That Noble Science of Politics: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Intellectual History (1983), written with John Burrow and Stefan Collini, his Sussex colleagues in intellectual history.

Later works included Riches and Poverty: An Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain, 1750-1834 (1996) and Wealth and Life: Essays on the Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain 1848-1914 (2009).

Written with a trademark clarity and penetration, Donald’s work remains the reference point for anyone with a serious interest in the economic thought of these periods.

From 1971 he was Publications Secretary of the Royal Economic Society, a role he fulfilled for 44 years.

As well as an honorary doctorate of letters from Sussex in 2006, this body of work brought wider recognition.

In 2007 Donald was elected as a Distinguished Fellow of the History of Economics Society and in 2012 as an Honorary Member of the European Society for the History of Economic Thought.

He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1986, serving as a Vice-President in 1992-93, and held many visiting appointments in Cambridge, Oxford, North America and Japan

Some of Donald’s unpublished papers are available via the open-access Winch archive at the University of St Andrews, where he was an Honorary Professor. His papers relating to his time at Sussex, which he donated to the University of Sussex Special Collections, are being catalogued and will shortly be available for public consultation at The Keep.

The funeral will be held at 1.30pm on Friday 30 June at St Peter’s Church, Offham, East Sussex BN7 3PX, to be followed by refreshments in the church hall. The family have requested no flowers, but donations to St Peter & St James Hospice, North Common Road, North Chailey BN8 4ED.

A memorial event to commemorate Donald Winch’s life and work will be held on Monday 9 October, from 11am-3pm at the Meeting House on the University of Sussex campus.


Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2017

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