Obituary: Professor Derek J. Oddy (1931-2018) BSc (econ), PhD FSNR

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Published Date:
03 Jan, 2019


Birmingham born, after his National Service in the Royal Airforce, he then enrolled on a teaching certificate course at Loughborough College, graduating in 1953. He taught in a succession of mixed secondary modern schools in Birmingham, Feltham, Isleworth and Twickenham, and lastly at Sunbury County Grammar School as an assistant master for Economics and History from September 1961.

A graduate (1966) and post graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Derek completed his PhD, ‘The working-class diet, 1886-1914’ in 1971. After four years as a research sociologist in the Department of Nutrition at Queen Elizabeth College, Campden Hill, London, he was appointed to a lecturing post at Ealing Technical College, and in 1974 founded an annual Business History Seminar (BHS) there, which ran until 1977.

From 1978 the BHS was sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) at the Polytechnic of Central London (PCL) where he was appointed to a senior lectureship in economic history. He continued to chair the BHS at PCL until 1993.

Derek served on the Social Sciences Research Council’s Economic and Social History Council from 1975 to 1979, and from 1984 to 1987 on its Social Affairs Committee where he devised the ESRC’s ‘The Nation’s Diet Programme’. He also served on the Council for National Academic Awards Economics and History Boards from 1981-87, and its Register of Specialist Advisors 1987-1992. He was a member of the Council of the Economic History Society from 1988-94.

With the foundation of the Association of Business Historians in 1990, Derek’s contribution to the discipline was acknowledged when he was elected as the Association’s first President. He also served for many years on the Business Archives Council.

When PCL (Britain’s oldest Polytechnic) was awarded university status as the University of Westminster in 1992, Professor Oddy ran a successful and much respected part-time MA in Twentieth Century History. He retired in 1996 and was awarded the title of Emeritus Professor of Economic and Social History.

Derek was the British member of the International Commission for Research into European Food History and co-edited three of their biennial volumes. On retirement, he co-edited numerous essay collections published by Ashgate on behalf of the European Food History Group, his last being, with Alain Drouard, The Food Industries of Europe in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (2013).

He authored, From Plain Fare to Fusion Food. British Diet from the 1890s to the 1990s (Woodbridge, 2003) and in 2005 he was invited to serve on the Editorial Board of Mariner’s Mirror, which he did with distinction, retiring due to ill health in December 2018. 

His wise counsel and sage advice will be missed by many who he helped over the years, and particularly this writer who has lost a great friend.

Derek’s wife, Judy, a psychologist, predeceased him in February 2018. He is survived by two sons, one daughter, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Professor Hugh Murphy
University of Glasgow

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