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Historian Lisa Jardine dies aged 71

Esteemed historian and regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View, Lisa Jardine CBE, has died of cancer at the age of 71

Published: October 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm
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A professor of renaissance studies at University College London (UCL), Jardine was known for her research into the early modern period, and for her commentary on history and the arts on television and radio.


Described by Simon Schama as “one of the great historians”, Jardine authored influential works on the architect Sir Christopher Wren and on women in the time of Shakespeare, as well as on various other subjects related to the Renaissance period. In 2009 she won the prestigious Cundill International Prize in History for her work, Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland’s Glory.

Jardine was a longstanding member of BBC History Magazine’s Advisory Panel, and contributed to a number of articles. She was also a trustee of the Victoria and Albert museum, and a member of the Council of the Royal Institution.

Jardine was the first woman fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and was honorary fellow of King’s College Cambridge and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She also held honorary doctorates from the University of St Andrews, Sheffield Hallam University, and the Open University, as well as the University of Aberdeen.

The distinguished historian was also known for her commentary on ethics and current affairs. Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) – the UK government regulator for assisted reproduction – from 2008 to 2014, she was this year elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Society, and was awarded its prestigious medal for popularising science.

Jardine, who spoke eight languages, also judged a number of literary prizes, including the Whitbread Prize for fiction and the Orwell Prize, and was chair of judges for the 1997 Orange Prize and the 2002 Man Booker Prize for fiction.

Jardine was the daughter of the Polish-British mathematician and scientist Jacob Bronowski. She was married to the architect John Hare, with whom she had two sons and a daughter.

Greg Neale, founding editor of BBC History Magazine (editor from 1999 – prelaunch – to 2004), said: "With Lisa Jardine's untimely death, the profession of history, and the humanities in general, has lost a dynamic, inspirational figure. And BBC History Magazine has lost a good friend.

"When we were planning the launch of the magazine, 15 years ago, I knew that the strength of our advisory panel would be crucially important – not just in terms of the advice its members could give me as editor – but as a signal of our intention to treat history seriously while bringing it to a new, popular audience.

"Lisa summed up that approach perfectly. As an academic, she was enormously gifted. But she also had the skills of a great communicator, enabling her to reach audiences through her work on television, radio and from the public platform. It was this balance of talents that made her advice so valuable to BBC History Magazine – as well as her generosity with her time, opinions and extensive contacts.

"She was always very encouraging to me, as she was to all the younger historians who she will helped in their careers, especially women making their way in a profession often dominated by men. She also had a love for bringing people together to share a passion for history. The annual lectures she organised at Queen Mary, London exemplified this, but there were countless other examples.

"Lisa seemed indefatigable. She was also full of love for life. Behind the formidable intellect, there was a great sense of humour. I remember introducing her when she was giving a keynote lecture to the Cambridge history festival. As it was the first event, I'd prefaced my introduction with the usual housekeeping – where the fire exits were, could people switch their mobile phones off, and so on. Just as the applause for our guest died away, and Lisa began to speak, a phone went off. It was mine. As, red-faced, I fumbled in my pocket, wishing the ground would open up and swallow me, Lisa beamed broadly, relishing the joke, and using it as a springboard into a lecture that was, as whenever she spoke, thoughtful, informative, entertaining and compelling.

"That appetite for life, for fun, and the zest with which she pursued so many areas of achievement – it is an abiding memory of someone who will be greatly missed."

Meanwhile, many historians and commentators have taken to Twitter to pay tribute to Jardine:



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