Professor Philippa Maddern (24 August 1952 -16 June 2014)
Foundation Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions
'On June 16, a year ago, Philippa Maddern died and CHE lost the presence of its beloved founder and inspiring leader. So this time of year is one of inescapable sadness for us. But remembering Philippa is also a source of ‘comfort’ in the early modern senses of ‘strength’, ‘happiness’ and ‘consolation’. It is hard to think of anyone who could have given us a better sense than Philippa did of the value of being alive and of sharing life with others. One of her forthcoming publications is an essay entitled ‘“It is full merry in heaven”; the pleasurable connotations of “merriment” in late medieval England’. In it she traces the medieval and early modern belief that merriment could ‘preserve the “vytall, and anymall, and spyrytuall powers”’, as Andrew Borde wrote in A Compendyous Regyment or A Dyetary of Helth (1642). Philippa had these human powers in abundance and was ‘merry’ in the fullest sense, even throughout her final illness. In honouring her anniversary, CHE affirms its continuing commitment to knowledge of the human, ‘comforted’ in her loss by the memory of her example and of the pleasures she shared so generously with us.'
- CHE Director Andrew Lynch
Professor Philippa Maddern worked tirelessly to oversee and promote the whole research program of the Centre, and to represent the Centre to the public. She was a widely respected scholar of medieval English history, a wonderful teacher and our inspired leader. Deep in her soul, she wanted to make good things happen for others, and she kept the will to do that, to the extent of treating a mortal illness as a side-issue that would not distract her from her path. She was loved by all who knew her, and on hearing of her death, many from all over the world sent contributions to the Centre’s condolences page, sharing memories of her approachability, sense of fun, and above all her infectious passion for the humanities.
Philippa was born in Wodonga and grew up in country Victoria, where her father was a school headmaster. After a B.A. (Honours) in History and Indonesian, and an M.A. at the University of Melbourne, she completed her D.Phil. at Oxford in 1985, supervised by the medieval historian Gerald Harriss. Her resulting book on violence and social order in late medieval East Anglia is still widely cited. Academic positions were scarce when she returned to Australia, and, while a Sugden fellow at Queen’s College and a Tutor at Monash University, she spent some time training as a computer programmer, before joining the History Department at UWA in 1989.
At UWA, Philippa made a unique and extraordinary contribution to medieval and early modern studies, and more widely to the culture of the Arts Faculty and the University. She arrived with a superb set of skills in historical method, and with that a deep feeling for languages, literature and cultural analysis. The mix made her a wonderful teacher and colleague: Philippa could (and did) help students with everything from palaeography to historiographical theory to construction of a computer database for analysing manorial records. She put huge skill and enthusiasm into History teaching and supervision at all levels from first year (a love of hers) to Ph.D, and as a wise mentor to junior staff. Beyond that, her energy and good will embraced every existing and emerging opportunity to engage more broadly with colleagues. Her work enhanced the Perth Medieval and Renaissance Group, the former MPhil in MEMS (now the MMEMS), the undergraduate major, and thejournal Parergon. She helped set up the UWA Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and then triumphantly took that momentum into the current ARC Centre for the History of Emotions, which is only the most recent visible item in a very long legacy. She co-edited and co-wrote, often well beyond her home field, jointly supervised dissertations, contributed to the first inter-disciplinary courses in Arts, and generally helped create a spirit of collegiality and cooperation which now has a wide international reach.
For the Centre of Excellence, remarkably, in a little over three years, Philippa led our innovative program of research to produce significant insights that we believe have had a major transformative impact on the field, strengthening its theoretical basis, and enabling the history of emotions to become part of mainstream history, rather than just an interesting sideline to a ‘main’ historical narrative of social, cultural, and political change. She led us to look for evidence of how emotions worked as processes and relationships in the past, and what were their causes and effects. The strongly interdisciplinary approach Philippa nurtured – covering not just social and cultural history, but literature, drama studies, performance studies, musicology, and art history- has provided an extremely beneficial example to researchers world-wide.
Besides leading intellectual work, Philippa also took active roles in forging industry partnerships, adding to the Centre’s education and outreach, and taking in as many of the performance program activities as she could. Indeed, she was amongst the first to jump on stage for a workshop exploring ritual and emotion in Shakespeare.
Philippa had a strong notion of what she thought was best, not the retiring type, and no friend to patriarchy, but anyone with a good new idea, or anyone in trouble, had the key to her heart. She was deeply thoughtful and generous, and had the unique capacity to find and offer the most remarkable gifts to colleagues and friends at Christmas and on birthdays; gifts that were left without fuss for their recipients, impossible to guess by their wrapping, always carefully considered, funny, historical, quirky and sometimes baked according to a traditional (but totally inedible) recipe.
Pip, as she was fondly known, was an irresistibly good person. She lived life passionately and remains a true inspiration to us all.
Obituary - The Australian, 23 June 2014
Read condolences sent by friends and colleagues around the world