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Richard Aldrich

Richard-AldrichObituary: Professor Richard Aldrich

Professor Richard Aldrich, Emeritus Professor of the History of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, who has sadly passed away on 20 September 2014, was one of the most distinguished historians of education of his generation. He founded the Institute of Education MA course in the history of education in 1979, and also the IHR history of education seminar programme in its modern form in the 1980s, and was an inspiration in the creation of ICHRE.

Richard was appointed to a lecturing post at the Institute of Education in 1973, and was to stay for the next thirty years until his retirement in 2003. Together with colleagues such as Peter Gordon, Margaret Bryant and Dennis Dean, he established the IOE’s preeminent national position in this area of study. He became a senior figure at the IOE, serving on most of its main committees and becoming its Public Orator in 1993.

Richard consistently drew attention to the connections between past and current issues in education, and to the political dimensions of educational reform. The edited selection of his key articles published as Lessons from History of Education (2006) exemplified his scholarly approach to historical writing. He continued to research, write and attend conferences in his retirement, and his final major publications on education for survival (2010) and neuroscience (2013) were among his most original, challenging and significant work. His research was widely recognised for its rigour and trenchant insights, qualities that stood out as he analysed the historical context of the Education Reform Act while it was being developed in the late 1980s.

Richard’s most substantial work included studies of Sir John Pakington and Joseph Payne, biographical dictionaries of educationists in England, Europe and North America, and an excellent centenary history of the IOE. He was secretary of the UK History of Education Society for five years before becoming its president from 1989 to 1993, and was then chair / president of the International Standing Conference for the History of Education from 1994 until 1997. Two Festschriften have been published in his honour, one produced by Tom O’Donoghue and Clive Whitehead (2004) and another by David Crook and Gary McCulloch in 2007.

Richard enjoyed a full family life with his wife Averil and his children and grandchildren, and was a lifelong supporter of Charlton Football Club. He made a large number of friends around the world and was a wise and trusted confidante to many. He was a role model and a gentle adviser for younger academics and for generations of students, and will be mourned and missed in equal measure.

Professor Gary McCulloch


Please feel welcome to leave a comment or message in memory of Richard below.

In honour of Richard, a selection of his papers  has been made available to view throughout 2015 by Taylor & Francis. On Friday 6 February 2015 ICHRE hosted a memorial event to celebrate Richard’s life, work and legacy. We expect to make available the tributes from that event shortly.

We also publish here a memorial letter from the Sociedad Espanola de Historia de la Educación. An interview with Richard published in the Spanish-language journal Historia de la Educación in 2008 is available to read here.


  1. Shocked and saddened to hear this. Richard was always a great supporter of history at the University of Greenwich and especially of the history of further education.

  2. Ren-Jie Lin says:

    Richard is really a British courtly and kind gentleman I met when I studied my PhD in IOE. He always cared about international postgraduates’ study and life. When he did his two academic visits in Taiwan in the 1990s, he supported his wonderful advice for Taiwanese educationalists’ research. Hope Richard can rest in peace heavenly.

  3. Farhat A. Hussain says:

    I am very saddened to hear of this sad news. Richard was my tutor for the MA History of Education at the IOE during 2004-5. I was most impressed with his expertise that greatly facilitated my understanding of the vast world of history of education. As the only full time MA during that year I was never made to feel alone thanks to the continuous discussions and engagement with Richard. I am grateful for the support provided by Richard during my first Master’s degree and for his kindness in providing reference for my further study at Cambridge. I had hoped to meet Richard again, alas! The IOE was greatly served by this great expert in his field. Whilst it has been 20 years, some of the published work of Richard remains close to my desk! My condolence to the family and friends.

  4. Farhat A. Hussain says:

    Erratum: In my posting I had stated Richard was my tutor for 2004-5 – time does fly. It was in fact 1994-5.

  5. ICHRE says:

    Thank you for your comments.

    Daniel Tröhler, Founding Editor of Bildungsgeschichte International Journal for the Historiography of Education, shares Richard’s last column for the journal, ‘In search of an Ethical History of Education’.

  6. Tribute from the History of Education Society

    Richard Aldrich’s qualities of scholarship and friendship made membership of the History of Education Society a very special part of our working lives. His presence at the annual conferences ensured that new scholars would meet with encouragement and an immediate sense of belonging. He has left a legacy of national and international collegiality and a body of work that will be used by generations of scholars to come. His commitment to the field was evident in his recent research which took historical scholarship forward in novel and exciting ways, working at the cutting edge and forefront of twenty-first century debates. He will be deeply missed.

  7. George Lewis Easton says:

    I studied the Philosophy and History of Education in 1982-4 for the award of an Advanced Dip. Ed. after completing a BA (Hons) in French & English in 1980. Ever since, I have found Richard Aldrich’s knowledge and wide-ranging interests both stimulating and pleasing, I am deeply grieved by his demise, and I am paying him a tribute in an article to be published this week in the local daily ‘LE MAURICIEN’ @ http://www.lemauricien.com/forum/article

  8. My tribute ‘In Memoriam: Richard E. Aldrich (1937-2014), eminent historian of education’ has just been published in today’s (Saturday 21 Feb. 2015) issue of the national daily ‘LE MAURICIEN’, and the online version is available at http://www.lemauricien.com/article/memoriam-richard-e-aldrich-1937-2014-eminent-historian-education

  9. Southlands College History group says:

    In memory of dear Mr Aldrich, who before he went to the Institute was a history lecturer at Southands teacher training college in Wimbledon. Particularly remembered by the 1970- 73 cohort who greatly valued his insight, humour and kindness..

  10. Mathew B. Gwanfogbe says:

    Though belated, I am indebted and owe a deserving tribute to Professor Richard Aldrich, a researcher who exercised incredible great human relation qualities, hard work, empathy and above all a very disposed supervisor for my PhD research. I met him for the first time in 1991and in collaboration with Dr Martin McLean, I was able to craft a research focus in 1993. He personally introduced me to relevant archives and libraries in London for data collection. Richard helped me to attend seminars and short courses and present papers in universities in the UK and in Europe. Together with Averil, his dear wife, my wife and I were welcomed in their home. After graduation from the University of London, Richard followed up my progress and continued to shape the trajectory of my career until 2012 when I was absorbed with the transformation of my college into what has become the University of Bamenda. His input in guiding and structuring our new university was very significant. Indisputably, Professor Richard Aldrich’s magnanimous social attributes and scholarly advice has contributed significantly to the success of many scholars. He is gone ahead but his ideas will continue to thrive in the scholarships of those he prepared.

  11. Patricia F Stone says:

    I studied for my MA with Richard in 1998 when he offered such kind support and encouragement.
    I am so sorry to have just learnt of his death.
    Belated condolences to his wife and family.
    He was a lovely man.
    Patricia Stone

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