Emeritus Professor Davis was born in India and educated at Trinity College Dublin. He lectured in history at the University of Otago from 1964 to 1966 and, from 1967, taught numerous courses at the University of Tasmania. He also served two terms as Head of Department there.
An eminent historian of Irish political history, he published books on Sinn Fein, the Young Ireland Movement, the Ulster Troubles, and Irish influence in New Zealand and Tasmania. His research on the Young Irelanders in Van Diemen’s Land, and especially his biography of William Smith O’Brien, was internationally acclaimed.
A dedicated historian of Tasmanian political life, he published on capital punishment in Tasmania, the centenary history of the University of Tasmania, the Tasmanian state aid issue, and the Tasmanian Labor Party, the last culminating in A History of the Tasmanian Labor Party 1902-2017 (2017), the only full history of a political party in Tasmania. His ardent defence of the value of the humanities was expressed in his most recent book, The Idea of a University and its Enemies: Socrates to SCOMO (2021), reflecting on the current social and political landscape of Australian universities.
Emeritus Professor Davis passed on 12 July 2022. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Marianne, his children Michael and Barbara, the wider Davis family, and his friends and colleagues.