John Lovell obituary

My former husband, John Lovell, who has died aged 80, was among those who founded the department of economic and social history at the new University of Kent in 1967. John established early on, and retained, a national and international reputation in his chosen field.

His doctorate was published as Stevedores and Dockers by Macmillan in 1969 and was well received. He made a brisk start to an extensive list of publications that included A Short History of the TUC (1968), British Trade Unions 1875-1933 (1975) and a series of groundbreaking articles in leading academic journals on labour relations in shipbuilding.

John was born in Bath, Somerset. His father, Jack, was sent to serve in the far east and John remained with his mother, Irene (nee Cavell), on the family dairy farm. He did not see his father again until he was five. From King Edward’s school in Bath he went to Hull University, graduating with a first in 1961.

This was the springboard to a distinguished academic career. He embarked on research for his PhD at the London School of Economics, in the field of trade union history, set in the port of London and covering the years 1870-1914. Professor Theo Barker spotted John’s talent at the LSE and invited him to join the University of Kent, where he rose to be senior lecturer by the time of his retirement in 1998.

John was a generous servant of the university – during the 1970s and 80s he chaired the Association of University Teachers, was chair of the board of studies, senior tutor in social science and deputy master of Eliot College.

He was also a generous and compassionate human being. On his retirement he joined the Canterbury and Thanet branch of the RSPCA, raised funds and contributed to the development of the Thanet animal rescue centre. Living in Blean, Canterbury, he enjoyed his house, garden and rescue dogs.

John and I met at Kent University in 1981, married in 1984 and lived together for 10 years. We divorced in 2008.

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