|Lionel Munby took a communist approach to history, looking at the lives of ordinary people.|
Lionel Munby, who has died aged 90, taught and fostered the study of local history in Hertfordshire, edited the Local Historian and played a leading role in developing the subject in England.
Born in Oxford, Lionel developed his interest in social history and politics in the 1930s. After school in Oxford and Clifton college, Bristol, he entered Hertford College, Oxford, where in 1939 he graduated with a first in modern history. It was during this time that he, like many intellectuals of his generation, joined the Communist party.
With the war came military service, mainly in Italy. Initially, promotion eluded him, but he was eventually called in to his superior's office and told that it was silly that he was not being promoted just because he was a communist. The offending pages of his service record were then burned. Promotion followed, and he finished the war as the adjutant of Milan.
In 1946 he was appointed to teach at the Cambridge University's board of extramural studies. He soon started to teach local history in Hertfordshire as well. From the start, he got students actively involved in their learning, an approach being taken up by other historians, many with communist credentials, who looked at history from below, at the lives of ordinary people.
This involved reading documents, deciphering strange handwriting, studying maps and walking fields, all of which led to him writing local history. Many Hertfordshire local history publications in the 1960s, 70s and 80s owe their inspiration and editing to Lionel. Some classes led to the founding of local history societies.
He was on the committee of the Hertfordshire Association for Local History from 1955 to 1987, serving as chairman and president. He also provided the inspiration for the founding of the Hertfordshire Record Society and became its first secretary.
For 20 years he was the editor of the Amateur Historian, later the Local Historian. The change of title was indicative of Lionel's thinking. Local historians were not professional or amateur – just local historians. He was also involved in the British Association for Local History, in later years as president.
Lionel wrote a number of books. The Hertfordshire Landscape (1977) is considered a classic, and many of his other works are indispensable items on any local historian's bookshelves.
Marxism and history: a bibliography of English language works (1967)
East Anglian studies (1968)
The Luddites, and other essays (1971)
Kings & Queens: The Colouful History of the British Monarchy (1974)
Concise Encyclopedia of World History (1977)Reading Tudor and Stuart handwriting (1988)
How much is that worth? (1989)