Lord (Asa) Briggs
Asa Briggs was born in Keighley, an industrial town on the edge of the moors in Yorkshire. He has become one of Britain’s most distinguished historians, with a wide range of interests outside of history. Among the publications he has written are his five volumes on the history of broadcasting in the UK and many books on social history, including Victorian Things, Victorian People and A Social History of England, which covers the history of England from the Stone Age to Margaret Thatcher.
His academic career has been outstanding. In 1941 he gained a First Class Honours as a BA from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and, in parallel, an external BSc in Economics from the University of London. His memoirs of his years in the Intelligence Service are recorded in his 2011 book, Secret Days: Codebreaking in Bletchley Park. He has followed this up with Special Relationships: People and Places. Both of these volumes have appeared between his 90th and 91st birthday in what he calls “a year of conjunctions”. He describes in Special Relationships the first year of the University of Sussex, within which he served as Vice-Chancellor from 1967 until 1976, and the first year of the Open University when the students were admitted in 1971. His vision of Sussex was “to redraw the map of learning” with interdisciplinary schools of study. This continues to be the basic approach of the university. In his honour in 2008, the university renamed its Arts A lecture theatres as the Briggs Lecture Theatres. From 1978 until 1994 he was Chancellor of the Open University.
He has associations with many universities, including Oxford, Leeds and Chicago, and has been presented with honorary degrees by 20 of them. In 1976 he was created a Life Peer as Baron Briggs of Lewes in the County of East Sussex. He was married in 1955 and has four children and 14 grandchildren.