Roger Highfield (historian)

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J. R. L. Highfield
Roger Highfield (historian).jpg
Roger Highfield
Born(1922-02-14)14 February 1922
Died13 March 2017(2017-03-13) (aged 95)
OccupationHistorian, fellow
Known forMedieval history

John Roger Loxdale Highfield (14 February 1922 – 13 April 2017) was an English historian of medieval Europe and fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford.[1][2] His contribution to the study of medieval Spain was recognised by his appointment to the Order of Isabella the Catholic in 1989.[3]


Roger Highfield enjoyed a long career at Merton College Oxford which began in 1948 when he joined the college as a Harmsworth Senior Scholar. Prior to that he read history at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was tutored by the influential historians A. J. P. Taylor and K. B. McFarlane. [2] He also did military service in the Royal Artillery. [1]

In 1951 he became Tutor in History at Merton, a post he kept until he retired in 1989, teaching alongside historians Robert Gildea and Philip Waller. [1] He was also a colleague of J. R. R. Tolkien, for whom he had little respect, describing the author as “very lazy" and “the worst sub-warden ever”, adding that Tolkien-mania left him “baffled”.[2] When champagne was ordered to mark Tolkien's donation to the College of his original manuscript of The Hobbit, Highfield remarked acidly: "waste of good champagne".[2]

Highfield served as Merton's archivist for almost 40 years, as well as other College offices.[1] In 1953 Highfield began a series of annual history reading weeks in Cornwall, open to all undergraduate historians,[2] a tradition which continues today.[1]

In 1997 he published the History of Merton College, which was jointly authored with the historian and archivist Geoffrey Martin, drawing heavily on documents from the College archives.[1]

Highfield's scholarship focused on late medieval Spain, in recognition of which he was awarded the Order of Isabella the Catholic in 1989. [1]

Selected publications[edit]

Roger Highfield in Cornwall in 1990
  • The Early Rolls of Merton College, Oxford; with an appendix of thirteenth-century Oxford charters. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964
  • Europe in the Late Middle Ages. London: Faber, 1970. (Edited with J. R. Hale & B. Smalley)
  • Spain in the Fifteenth Century, 1369-1516: essays and extracts by historians of Spain. London: Macmillan, 1972. (Editor) ISBN 0333111354
  • The Crown and Local Cmmunities in England and France in the Fifteenth Century. London: Sutton, 1981. (Edited with Robin Jeffs) ISBN 0904387674
  • Oxford and Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. (With Christopher Brooke) ISBN 0521301394
  • A History of Merton College, Oxford. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. (with G. H. Martin) ISBN 0199201838
  • Registrum annalium Collegii Mertonensis, 1603-1660. Woodbridge: Boydell Press/Oxford Historical Society, 2006. ISBN 0904107205

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dr Roger Highfield 1922-2017. Merton College Oxford, April 2017. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Obituary: Roger Highfield. The Times, 22 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  3. ^ Merton College obituary

Further reading[edit]

  • Lomax, Derek W. & Mackenzie, David (eds.) (1989) God and Man in Medieval Spain: Essays in honour of J. R. L. Highfield. Warminster: Aris & Phillips. ISBN 0856684430