Harold Fox, who also published as H.S.A. Fox, had retired from the University of Leicester, where he had held a personal chair in the Centre for English Local History, only a month before his death and was finalising his magnum opus on medieval transhumance on Dartmoor at that time. Dartmoor's Alluring Uplands: Transhumance and Pastoral Management in the Middle Ages
was eventually published in 2012 after his manuscripts were editted by Christopher Dyer and Matthew Tompkins.
He took a degree in historical geography at University College London, and moved to the University of Cambridge, along with his thesis supervisor, H.C. Darby. On completing his thesis he taught geography for a few years at Cambridge, and spent a year at Queen’s University Belfast, before joining the Department (now Centre) of English Local History at the University of Leicester in 1976. He flourished there, gaining much praise for his teaching, and was promoted to a personal chair in 2003. Much of his research was on the south west, especially his beloved Devon.
In his thesis and subsequent articles he revised the orthodoxies about theregion’s field systems, and showed that there had been extensive enclosure of open fields in the later middle ages. He applied his deep understanding of field systems, and in particular the balance that they struck between arable and pastoral farming, to the fields of the Midlands, and contributed a major essay on the ‘Origins of the Midland System’ to Trevor Rowley’s bookpublished in 1981. He also demolished the theory that there was a wholesale movement from two-field to three-field systems in the period of population pressure in the thirteenth century.
His insights into fields were used in an important essay on landscape history published in 1989, in which he characterised the special features of the wold landscapes of eastern England.One of his most original contributions to settlement and landscape history, was the discovery that the fishing villages on the south coast of Devon only became permanent settlements after about 1400. At the time of his death he had completed the text of a book on Dartmoor, which developed themes of transhumance and seasonal settlements.
He lectured in style, both to Leicester students and at conferences. He was a good citizen in the academic world, serving as Reviews Editor of the Journal of Historical Geography
, and was an active president of three societies. He was kind and courteous in an old-fashioned way, and a witty conversationalist.
It was a mark of the esteem in which he was held that no less than five conferences were organised in his memory in 2008, three in Devon and two in Leicester. From these various speakers were invited to contribute to a memorial volume, Life in Medieval Landscapes: People and Places in the Middle Ages
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