Mansfield College is very saddened to hear of the death of the distinguished academic and former Mansfield Principal, David Ian Marquand.

Principal Helen Mountfield KC shares her condolence:

“I was so sorry to learn of David’s death. A great thinker, friend, supporter and predecessor as Principal of Mansfield. He set the tone of the College I am so proud to lead. My great sympathy is with his wife, Judith – to whom he was so devoted – and David’s family”

Professor David Ian Marquand (1934 – 2024)

Principal of Mansfield, 1996 – 2002

The Mansfield community mourns the passing of David Marquand FBA, FRHistS, FRSA. He was the first Principal to be elected after Mansfield obtained full collegiate status, an office which he graced with great distinction and flair during his tenure from 1996 to 2002. He was also the first Principal not required to be a member of the United Reformed Church. David arrived at the College having made a stellar mark in three overlapping careers: as a politician of the centre-left, as an academic with a succession of penetrating books on British social democracy, and as a sharp and stylish political commentator in high demand by the quality press.

David brought with him tolerance, congeniality, and an open and inquiring mind, cherishing and enhancing Mansfield’s friendly and informal atmosphere. From the outset he revitalised Mansfield’s goals and agenda, initially in two major fields. The first resulted in the receipt of a generous £2 million donation from Guy Hands, as part of a series of concerted efforts to put the College’s finances on a secure footing. It also involved consolidating the Development Office on a professional basis. By 2002, David’s persistent efforts within the University culminated in Mansfield’s admission to the list of recipient colleges for the College Contribution Fund system that disbursed money from wealthier to poorer colleges and was a lifeline to Mansfield’s future survival.

The second goal – one that associated Mansfield’s name beyond the University’s walls with a mission of social inclusivity and equality – was to focus on recruiting students from state schools and appointing an Access Officer. That outreach initiative was originally supported by the Sutton Trust (established by Sir Peter Lampl OBE) and set the College on a path that ultimately resulted in its attaining the highest proportion of state-school admissions of all the Oxbridge colleges. In addition, David oversaw the establishing of a College research post in dyslexia, funded by John Willis (Geography, 1980).

Alongside those institutional projects, David turned Mansfield into a hub of lively and stimulating activities, supported by a rich stream of guests and visitors from many spheres of public life, in particular politics and the arts. For this he drew on his contacts as a former Labour MP for Ashfield, as one involved in the early days of the Social Democratic Party, and as a heavyweight intellectual and cultural figure.

David’s staunch support of the European Union (he had been an advisor to Roy Jenkins when the latter was the President of the European Commission) was a factor in his chairing the Europaeum – an international consortium of European universities centred at Oxford and linked administratively to Mansfield – that offered postgraduate courses and financial support for selected students. His subsequent distress at Brexit was palpable.

In later life David became a champion of devolution and returned to his Welsh roots, both in joining Plaid Cymru and in moving from Oxford to Penarth. Yet his political views were principled and solid. Although his allegiances towards political parties on the left of the spectrum vacillated, he was largely the constant one, while the parties were shape-shifting around him.

David had an eminent academic career prior to joining the Mansfield community, holding chairs at Salford and Sheffield universities, and he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1998. His magnum opus was a hefty political biography of Ramsay MacDonald, followed by a steady flow of trenchant analyses and critiques of British politics and society, including The Unprincipled Society, The Progressive Dilemma: From Lloyd George to Blair and The New Reckoning: Capitalism, States and Citizens.

David’s long partnership with his wife, Judith, was a mainstay of his life, buttressed by her own experience as a senior economist in the Civil Service and academic researcher and author, and by their shared political sympathies over many decades.

I first met David when I was a graduate student, listening to a fascinating talk he gave at Oxford. Many years later, we became friends during a conference in the pretty Italian town of Trani on the Adriatic coast, while sneaking out with our wives for a trip in the surrounding countryside. When the prospective vacancy for a new Mansfield Principal arose, David’s name was the first in my mind and I wrote to sound him out on behalf of the College’s search committee. David’s response was characteristically positive and thus was set in motion a new chapter in Mansfield’s life – and in David’s, in a post that he described as ‘the most enjoyable and worthwhile’ he’d ever had. He later wrote, referring to his mainly political nonconformity: ‘How could I not be in love with the only Oxford College to have a portrait of Cromwell hanging in the place of honour in its SCR?’ We were all fortunate to have had such a vigorous, knowledgeable and committed advocate for the College, a man of warmth and vision in whose care Mansfield’s flourishing could be – and was – wholly entrusted.

Professor Michael Freeden, Emeritus Fellow in Politics