Vale Richard Davis FAHA: 1935 – 2022

The Australian Academy of the Humanities sadly acknowledges the passing of Emeritus Professor Richard Davis, a prominent scholar of Tasmanian, New Zealand, Irish and Canadian history. He was elected to the Academy in 1997.

an autumn forest with a green square, pause, and triangle symbol over the top. The word 'Vale' is written in the square

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.

In memory of our Fellows

Our Fellows, current and those who have died, have contributed extensively to the rich Australian humanities community. When an Academy Fellow dies, we honour their impact by publishing an obituary by another Fellow who has had a long and close association with them.

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.