Obituary: John Saville

Marxist historian renowned for his great work, the Dictionary of Labour Biography

John Saville, the socialist economic and social historian who has died aged 93, was an academic at Hull University for nearly 40 years, but will be remembered above all for the great, open-ended Dictionary of Labour Biography (partly co-edited with Joyce Bellamy), of which he was able to complete the first 10 volumes (1972-2000), and the three volumes of Essays in Labour History (1960, 1971, 1977) co-edited with Asa Briggs (Lord Briggs).

He was born John Stamatopoulos, in a Lincolnshire village near Gainsborough, to Edith Vessey, from a local working-class family, and Orestes Stamatopoulos, a Greek engineer who disappeared from the lives of both soon after. His mother’s remarriage in London some years after the first world war to a widowed tailor, freemason and reader of the Daily Mail, to whom she had acted as housekeeper, gave her son a comfortable lower-middle-class childhood and the name he later adopted.

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