Submitted by Richard Asquith (2015)
Few who attended this special conference could deny that it was an unmitigated success. Distinguished scholars, former and current colleagues, students, history buffs and alumni gathered together at this summer’s Harlaxton Medieval Symposium to celebrate, and pay tribute to, the work and career of Clive Burgess of the Department of History. The topic was particularly fitting considering Clive’s many years working on the late-medieval English church with his first publications appearing in the mid-1980s. Conference lectures and essays have followed on, for example, chantry provision in pre-Reformation Bristol and urban parochial religion (especially in London and Bristol) during a ground-breaking career of four decades.
The Harlaxton Medieval Symposium is an inter-disciplinary conference held every July in Lincolnshire with a theme and organiser chosen by the Steering Committee. This year’s programme was organised by David Harry, University of Chester, and alumnus Christian Steer (1995), University of York. Lectures included fellow alumni, Justin Colson (2011) on the Cursus Honourum for London parishioners, Elizabeth New (1999) on the seals of urban friars and Nick Holder (2011) on the foundation of monastic communities in the medieval city. Caroline Barron, Professor Emerita from the College spoke on the community living around St Bartholomew’s Hospital in medieval London. One of the many enjoyable aspects of the Symposium was the friendly nature of the event. This was evident in the warmth and appreciation shown to Clive and in the good-natured atmosphere of the discussions around the papers. The opportunity was especially useful to doctoral and early-career historians, both as a chance to meet the names on their reading lists in person and to create connections with each other.
The conference dinner provided a particularly convivial occasion to chat with like-minded delegates and to enjoy the after-dinner speeches. Christian Steer, gave a heartfelt and personal soliloquy, having been a student and friend of Clive for many years and, as well as his own tribute, offered the sentiments of those who could not be there. The most notable was from Eamon Duffy, whose seminal monograph, The Stripping of the Altars, owed not an insubstantial debt to Clive. Duffy paid tribute to Clive’s ‘verve and insight’, ‘memorable and occasionally pugnacious phrasing’ and his ‘unrivalled expertise’. Clive’s response had all the hallmarks that have come to define him: it was comical and poignant, littered with stories of friends and past students and quips that were both insightful and elicited groans from the audience in equal measure. And best of all we at last learned the identity of the former student – sitting close by – who once wrote about ‘gorilla warfare’!
The whole conference was a fitting homage to the academic pursuits and impact of Clive Burgess over the last four decades. His intellectual prowess and his warm, charming disposition were recognised in a wonderfully friendly gathering of his friends and colleagues.