Kevin Sharpe (1949-2011) was one of the most important historians of early modern Britain during the last half century and particularly important in helping us understand the complex ways literary texts may be employed as historical documents. The author of 11 books, Kevin’s grasp of seventeenth-century history, cultural and social practice, print and visual culture was unmatched. He was equally at home in departments of History (notably Southampton where he spent the substantial early part of his career) and English (at Warwick and then at Queen Mary). Generous of his time, he was a large presence in the tea rooms and nearby bars of major research libraries around the globe combining advice on research topics, suggestions for career advancement and demands for the latest gossip while disseminating stories from his own ample storehouse. At conferences and papers, Kevin could always be counted on to ask apparently innocuous but ultimately incisive questions and he took particular delight in flaying the pompous.
During its early years, Kevin regularly attended the London Renaissance Seminar and he has given numerous papers at it. It is difficult to think we will not again encounter his irreverent humour, his zest over all things academic, and his intrinsic good nature.
Kevin seemed to have successfully fought off cancer a couple of years ago, his vigour for life and for work undiminished. Alas, it was not to be; the cancer returned aggressively and fatally this autumn. I cannot but feel he would have appreciated an end amidst the cacophony of bonfire night, a date so significant for the era he helped us to better understand.
Further tributes to Professor Sharpe:
Queen Mary University
Jack of Kent Blog
Listen to the In Our Time podcast:
Seventeenth Century Print Culture
Some of Kevin's books...