12th May 2020
Dr Elizabeth Griffiths – Obituary
Elizabeth Griffiths 19 December 1948 – 11 April 2020
Elizabeth Griffiths’ historical interests lay primarily in farming and in the management of landed estates. Her PhD (1987) was on the management of the Blickling and Felbrigg estates in the seventeenth century, leading some time later to her edition of William Windham’s Green Book 1673-1688 (Norfolk Record Society 66, 2002). Work with Jane Whittle on Consumption and Gender in the Early Seventeenth-Century Household. The World of Alice Le Strange (Oxford, 2012) was followed in its turn by Her Price is above Pearls, an edition of the family and farming records of Alice Le Strange, 1617-1656 (Norfolk Record Society 79, 2015).
Before returning to England to study for her Ph.D. Lizzie – as she was known to many of her colleagues – had spent time share farming in New Zealand. This not only gave her invaluable practical knowledge of farming but also the insight which led to what was probably her most original work, Farming to Halves: The Hidden History of Sharefarming in England from Medieval to Modern Times (2009), co-written with Mark Overton. Apart from these publications, she wrote numerous chapters and articles and at the time of her death was working on a monograph on the Le Strange family entitled Managing for Posterity.
It was in 2001 that Lizzie was first approached by Jane Whittle to become involved in a project analysing the household accounts of Alice Le Strange. She jumped at the opportunity, having vowed in 1980, when first exploring the Le Strange archive, to return to it one day. This happened to coincide with her husband, Peter, taking up the post of Regional Director for the National Trust in the East of England, and so she wasted no time in resigning her position as Head of History at Reigate (Sixth Form) College in Surrey and moved back to Norfolk in 2002.
Lizzie’s interest in the Norwich freemen had started early in her academic career when she was asked to help write what became ‘Buxom to the Mayor’ – a history of the freemen and of the Town Close estate co-authored with Hassell Smith (1987). In 2017, the 700th anniversary of the first entry by a Freeman in the Old Free Book was celebrated. She led a complex project, not only to update ‘Buxom to the Mayor’ but also to digitise the freemen’s registers from 1317 to the present day. This challenging project will enable free access for families and historians alike to study in-depth the social history of Norwich.
Lizzie was enthusiastic, full of boundless energy and ideas, and a very good friend. It is a matter of great regret that illness forced her to give up her involvement in the freemen project and that she did not live to see its completion. She will be sorely missed.