Author and historian Lord Asa Briggs dies aged 94

16 March 2016

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of author and historian Lord Asa Briggs. Asa died peacefully yesterday (15 March) at his home in Lewes, aged 94.

Asa’s history specialised in the Victorian era, and he was the author of a five-volume text on the history of broadcasting in the UK. His academic career saw him appointed as Vice-Chancellor of Sussex University and Chancellor of the Open University. He played a key role in the establishment of both institutions. In addition, he was an Honorary Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and in 1976 was made a life peer.

Lord Briggs was born in Keighley, North Yorkshire, and during the Second World War served with British intelligence at Bletchley Park, the base known for deciphering the Enigma code. In April 1951 he applied to join the Society of Authors (then known as The Incorporated Society of Authors, Playwrights and Composers) and was soon elected to the committee of the Educational Writers’ Group.

In September 1981, in recognition of his exceptional career and his services to the profession, he was invited to join our Council, where he continued to campaign on behalf of his fellow authors. In October 1984, in a contribution to The Author, he argued eloquently against the imposition of VAT on books, saying

To introduce VAT would be to put history into reverse. It would be like re-enacting the old taxes on knowledge which were finally repealed only after a long and testing struggle. More than knowledge is at stake, however, in an age of electronic technology. The capacity of books to divert and entertain, as well as to instruct, is one of their great attractions; and anything that threatens literacy is the worst threat of all.

Lord Briggs is survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters and fourteen grandchildren.