Posted on 7 October 2022
David taught palaeography to many generations of students at the Centre for Medieval Studies, and his hospitality was second to none, especially to students. He was an exceptionally meticulous but also generous scholar, publishing prolifically on medieval church history.
Very recently, he contributed hugely to the work of ‘The Northern Way’ project, based at the University of York, which would have been impossible without his foundational scholarship.
Sarah Rees Jones writes: We are very sorry to announce the death, at the age of 75, of Professor David M. Smith, former Director of the Borthwick Institute (1974-2000), at the University of York. David Smith established the reputation of the Borthwick (and York) as a specialist centre for research in ecclesiastical history. He reorganised and reclassified the York Diocesan Archive and initiated several new series of research publications. David was a meticulous and generous archival scholar. He enjoyed an international reputation for his foundational scholarship on the surviving archives and administrative practices of English dioceses. Another area in which he made a crucial contribution was in monastic history, producing several key works of scholarly reference. He retired from the Borthwick in 2003 and moved to Romania where he continued his work with both local and English ecclesiastical archives.
At York David was a leading member of the Centre for Medieval Studies from his arrival in 1970 and throughout the years of its growth to prominence as an international centre for postgraduate training, a reputation to which he contributed in no small part. He taught palaeography to many generations of students at the Centre for Medieval Studies and supervised many PHD research students. His hospitality was second to none, especially to students who remember him with affection both as a meticulous teacher and as a generous and gentle mentor.
David continued to contribute substantially to major initiatives in York to make the immense archives of the medieval diocese more accessible even after his retirement. As recently as 2019-22, he contributed significantly to the work of major AHRC-funded project ‘The Northern Way; the Archbishops of York and the North of England, 1304-1405’, which built upon his foundational scholarship.