Joan Thirsk

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Joan Thirsk
Born Irene Joan Watkins
(1922-06-19)19 June 1922
Primrose Hill, London Borough of Camden, London, England
Died 3 October 2013(2013-10-03) (aged 91)[1]
Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Kent, England
Residence Hadlow, Kent, England
Nationality British
Other names Irene Joan Thirsk
Alma mater Oxford University
Occupation Author, historian, academic, cryptologist

Irene Joan Thirsk, CBE, FBA, FRHistS (née Watkins; 19 June 1922 – 3 October 2013[1]), was a British economic and social historian, specialising in the history of agriculture.[2]

She was one of the leading economic and social historians of the 20th century, having greatly influenced the methodology and direction of research. She had a major influence on this field, and her most prominent contribution has been to use as a source for the first time, local manuscripts. She worked first as assistant lecturer in sociology at the London School of Economics, then senior research fellow at the University of Leicester (1951–65). She was reader in economic history at Oxford University between 1975 and 1983. She was the editor of The Agrarian History of England and Wales (for volumes 4–6) from 1964 to 1972 and in 1974 was appointed general editor of the series.[3]

She sat on the editorial board of Past & Present from 1957 to 1992. She was appointed a fellow of the British Academy in 1974 and made a Commander of the British Empire in 1993.[4]

During the Second World War she worked as an intelligence analyst at Bletchley Park, providing information that assisted Hut 6 in the breaking of the Enigma ciphers and added substantially to the substance of the subsequent intelligence reports. She worked in the Sixta traffic analysis group alongside her future husband Jimmy.[5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Joan THIRSK Obituary: View Joan THIRSK's Obituary by The Times". 2013-10-03. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  2. ^ Christopher Dyer. "Joan Thirsk obituary | Books". Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  3. ^ Hallas pp. 1184-5
  4. ^ Reisz, Matthew (2013-10-17). "Joan Thirsk, 1922-2013". THE. 
  5. ^ James Thirsk, Bletchley Park: An Inmate's Story, M & M Baldwin, Cleobury Mortimer, 2012


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