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Sad news of the death of Professor Emeritus, Jim Sharpe

Posted on 22 February 2024

Professor Emeritus James 'Jim' Sharpe (1946-2024)

We are very sad to report the death of our esteemed colleague, Professor Emeritus Jim Sharpe. He died bravely on 13 February, from cancer, after a shockingly brief illness. In the words of David Wootton, Jim should be considered as: ‘one of the finest of early modern historians’.

After temporary posts at the universities of Exeter and Durham, Jim joined York’s history department in 1973, where he became Professor in 1997 and stayed until his retirement in 2016.

In the course of a notably productive career, Jim not only wrote a series of pioneering articles in the fields of defamation and sexual slander; domestic homicide; public execution and witchcraft, together with several influential and well-received text books (notably Early Modern England: a social history, 1550-1760, 1987, 1997), but also the first 'micro-history' written from English sources in the form of The Bewitching of Anne Gunter: a horrible and true history of deception, witchcraft and the King of England (1999).

His final book: A Fiery and Furious People: a history of violence in England (2016) was described in the TLS as: ‘magisterial… the outlaw’s song has surely never been better rendered

Jim is probably most fondly remembered by generations of York students for his courses on social history and especially on witchcraft, where they encountered first-hand his deep understanding of, and love for, archival research.

The Department of History has lost a wonderful scholar and teacher, a considerate colleague, and a friendWe offer his widow, Professor Krista Cowman (Head of the School of History, Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester) and children, Guy and Elfreda, our deepest condolences.

The funeral will take place at 3.00 pm on Tuesday 5 March at York Crematorium.

You can read David Wootton’s tribute here: Sharpest of historians