Sidney Sussex College is greatly saddened by the death of Professor Derek Beales FBA. Derek had a positive impact on the lives of so many in our community and continued to play an active role in the life of the College until recently. 

Derek Beales completed his BA, MA and PhD at the University of Cambridge, and was appointed as a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College in 1955. 

Having taken up a position as a University Lecturer in History in 1965, he was appointed Editor of The Historical Journal in 1971. He was appointed Professor of Modern History in 1980, a position he held until 1997. From 1984 until 1987 he was a member of the council of the Royal Historical Society. In 1989, he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. 

Derek’s many books include From Castlereagh to Gladstone, 1815-1885 (1969); Joseph II, vol I: In the shadow of Maria Theresa, 1741-1780 (1987); and Monks, nuns and spoilers: European Catholic monasteries in the age of enlightenment and revolution (2002).

The Master, Professor Richard Penty, said: “Professor Derek Beales came to Sidney as an undergraduate in 1950. He was elected to a Fellowship in 1955, remaining as a Fellow for a remarkable 68 years.  He made an enormous contribution to the College, at various times serving as Assistant Librarian, Praelector, Steward, Dean, Tutor and Vice Master, whilst also directing studies in History. I have lost count of the times alumni have told me how much he meant to them – he truly made a great impression on them and their lives also. He was a Sidney institution and will be greatly missed.” 

Sidney alumnus and Honorary Fellow Professor Tony Badger first met Derek in December 1964: “I still remember my entrance interview. Derek could not have been more kind. I left the interview feeling very satisfied. Only on the train home did I realise how vacuous my answers had been.  

“In later years, I have reminded myself of Derek's forbearance as I was tempted to be judgmental towards new students. As Derek told me when I came up, 'It was clear that you did not know anything but you showed you could answer the question!’  

“He was always very encouraging and supportive. I know that he saw all my weaknesses but his support was vital.” 

Emeritus Fellow Professor Rosamond McKitterick, Professor Emerita of Medieval History, said: “It is nigh on impossible to sum up Derek's enormous contribution to historical scholarship, the work of the History Faculty, and to History at Sidney in a few words. He was an extraordinarily versatile historian, with work ranging from Gladstone's Britain to the Austria of Maria Theresa and the Emperor Joseph II and Risorgimento Italy, and even a study of Mozart.  

“As an early medievalist, I was never taught by Derek, though I enjoyed many conversations with him in Sidney, especially about the fate of monastic libraries in pre- and post-Revolutionary Europe, and the diplomatic contacts with Italy in the 1780s.  

“I have lost count of the Sidney History alumni and alumnae who ask after him with both affection and respect on their visits to Sidney. He clearly made a great impression on all whom he taught. He was also devoted to the Sidney’s History society, the Confraternitas Historica, and rarely missed a meeting, or the dinner afterwards, until very recently.“

Professor Derek Beales FBA died on Monday 10 July. The College extends its deepest sympathy to Derek’s wife, Sally, and their family. 

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