Roger Morgan, IASGP Founder, 1932-2015

Roger Morgan, one of the founding fathers of the (I)ASGP, died recently after a long illness. His outstanding characteristics were courage, friendliness and unusual linguistic gifts. Struck down with polio at the age of fourteen, Roger bore his illness with such uncomplaining fortitude that he was awarded a Jack Cornwell Medal by the Scout Association. The same courage was on display when he was confined to his bed for a number of years with multiple myeloma. This courage was combined with an unassuming friendliness and unquenchable optimism. Roger had a wonderful, mellifluous voice and developed native language competence in French, German and Italian.

He began his academic career with a PhD at Cambridge on ‘The German Social Democrats and the First International 1864’. His lifelong engagement with mainland Europe began in this period when he spent a year as a language assistant in Paris, carrying out his research in Hamburg and Amsterdam. Roger was an outstanding example of what Richard Evans has called ‘the cosmopolitan islanders’.  This group of post-war historians were motivated by a desire to engage with and understand mainland Europe. They were to play the central role in establishing European Studies as an academic specialism in the United Kingdom and Roger was Professor of European Studies at Loughborough University (1974-8) and finished his career at the EUI in Florence (1988-96).  For a time European Studies was indeed very successful, but was gradually weakened by the weakness of language acquisition in Britain.

Roger’s European instincts made him a strong supporter of European integration and of the United Kingdom’s European vocation. This found expression in his work at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (1968-74) and the Policy Studies Institute (1979-86). In his work in these institutes he initiated a number of transnational projects. A year after he came to Chatham House he and Karl Kaiser organised a very innovative conference on ‘Britain and West Germany: changing societies and the future of foreign policy’, the results of which subsequently appeared in a book in both English and German.  Karl Kaiser told me recently that this was the first joint research project that Chatham House ever carried out with a non-UK institute.

Roger played a very prominent role in the Koenigswinter Conference, the Anglo-German Elite Conference originally established to foster reconciliation between the two countries.  Over time it morphed into a grouping of pro-Europeans and those who enjoyed meeting foreigners. It was as much a natural spiritual home for Roger as it was an object of suspicion for Prime Minister Thatcher. This conference played to Roger’s strengths and he enjoyed a great deal of respect among both the German and British participants. He was a member of the UK Board for very many years.

The founding meeting of the Association for the Study of German Politics took place with Roger’s help at Chatham House. Roger became the first Chairman and our first Committee meetings took place in the august surroundings of Chatham House. It was very helpful for the infant association that we were so strongly supported by senior academics such as Peter Pulzer, Gordon Smith and Roger who were well known in Britain and Germany.

Although Roger was a committed European he loved the United States and visited Harvard for extended periods. One of his best known books was ’The United States and West Germany 1945-73’.

Roger was greatly respected by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Auswaertiges Amt. He was awarded the German Order of Merit and he chaired one of the sessions at the Witness Seminar for the publication of the UK Documents  on German Unification 1989 -90.

In his final years Roger’s store of knowledge was drawn on by his friends and colleagues. Tom Kielinger has told me how much help he received from Roger in the preparation of his Churchill biography. He became very widely known through his masterly reviews in the Times Higher Education newspaper.

On behalf of the Association I would like to thank Roger’s wife and children for all that he gave to others in a life so bravely and elegantly lived.

by William E Paterson

One thought on “Roger Morgan, IASGP Founder, 1932-2015

  1. Roger was also opened to and extremely helpful for people coming from the former Eastern bloc countries – he always sought to include us into debates as equal partners (which we were not). He will be remembered in academic circles in Central and Eastern Europe.
    Many thanks, Willie, for writing this great obituary. Vladimír Handl


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