by Patrick Walsh (Trinity College, Dublin)
Members of the Economic History Society and readers of the Long Run blog will be deeply saddened to hear of the news of the passing away of Dr Aaron Graham on 28 April 2023 following a short illness.
I first met Aaron in 2011 when having arrived in London to work on the Irish fiscal-military state, I was told by a senior colleague that he had just met a brilliant young Oxford historian who was interested in similar things. This was Aaron. After a lengthy coffee in the British Library, we quickly established a rapport and a friendship which led to a productive collaborative relationship. In 2013 we convened a conference in Jesus College, Oxford, which led to our jointly edited book The British Fiscal-Military States, 1660-1783 (2016). Our careers and interests continued to overlap and even after I moved from London to Dublin, we continued our discussions about subjects of mutual interest. Indeed, we had plans to work together into the future.
I was but one of the many people Aaron collaborated with across the world over the years and the testimony from so many colleagues in the days since his death reveals that my experience of his kind, generous and intellectually brilliant personality was widely shared. It has been particularly inspiring to read the remembrances of his students at University College London where he was continuing the tradition begun by Negley Harte and Julian Hoppit in teaching world-class British economic history. The students clearly felt inspired by his teaching and by his kind and generous manner. Colleagues who have experienced Aaron’s papers at conferences and seminars and his contributions to discussions in seminars such as the Economic and Social History of the Premodern World Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research will likewise remember his superb delivery, wry humour and inquisitive but fair-minded critical questioning.
A graduate of Lincoln College and New College, Oxford, Aaron then held a junior research fellowship at Jesus College, Oxford, a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship, also at Oxford, and subsequently a Leverhulme fellowship at UCL. He then returned to Oxford again to work on the ERC European Fiscal Military System 1530-1870 project, before being appointed to a permanent post at UCL in 2021 as Lecturer in the Economic History of Early Modern Britain.
During all this time he was an extraordinarily productive scholar, producing a superb monograph Corruption, party and government in Britain, 1702-13 (Oxford, 2015) as well as a shorter book on paper money, Bills of Union: money, empire and ambitions in the mid-eighteenth century British Atlantic in 2021. He was the author of several dozen peer-reviewed articles on a wide range of topics in early-modern British, Irish and imperial, political, and economic history, including publications in leading journals such as English Historical Review, Historical Journal, Historical Research and Parliamentary History. At the time of his death he was working on two major book projects for Oxford University Press, Tropical Leviathan: slavery, society and security in Jamaica, 1770-1840, which examines the role of the colonial fiscal-military state in supporting and undermining the economic and social system of plantation slavery, and Infinite money: Britain and the European fiscal-military system, 1560-1870, which examines the contribution of foreign resources of money, manpower and war materiel to the operation of the British fiscal-military state.
Based on the papers he presented at various fora in recent years (including at several annual conferences of the Economic History Society) and his articles published in recent years, these promised to be major works and indicate the way that Aaron was transforming our historical understanding of the period and subjects he worked on. He will be a major loss to the discipline and all of us who worked with him will regret the chance to listen to, read, and engage with his work in the future. His premature death however much more importantly leaves us without a colleague, friend, and collaborator, and leaves his family without a son and a brother.
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