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Professor Peter Foote (1924-2009)

The Department of Scandinavian Studies very much regrets to announce the death on 29 September 2009 of Peter Foote, first Professor of Scandinavian Studies at UCL and founding head of the department. He was instrumental in establishing the model of Scandinavian Studies as an inter-cultural, interdisciplinary and pan-historical field of research, learning and teaching that still underlies the Department's activities.

Peter came to UCL in 1949, after three years of naval service, a degree in English taken at University College in Exeter, and a year's study at the University of Oslo. He remained at UCL for the whole of his career, beginning as an instructor in the English Department before taking up successive posts as Assistant Lecturer, Lecturer, and Reader in Old Scandinavian, in the period when Scandinavian Studies was a sub-division of English. When Scandinavian Studies achieved independence in 1963, Peter was elected to the newly created Chair in Scandinavian Studies and chosen to be Director of the new department. He continued in both roles until his retirement in 1983. He was elected a Fellow of UCL in 1989.

Peter's field of interest encompassed the whole of medieval Scandinavia, although much of his published work focused on Old Icelandic manuscripts, texts, and literary culture. He was a meticulous editor of texts and an elegant, knowledgeable and judicious critic. His most notable publications include his editions of Jóns saga helga (2003),  Olaus Magnus's Description of the Northern Peoples (1996-98) and Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu (1957), his contribution to the translated Laws of Early Iceland (1980 and 2000), and The Viking Achievement (1970; 2nd ed. 1980), co-written with Sir David Wilson, also of UCL. Two collections of his scholarly articles have been published.

Peter was a great ambassador for both his discipline and his institution. He was twice President of the Viking Society for Northern Research and the Society's Secretary for almost a quarter of a century. The esteem in which he was held in Scandinavia is reflected by his honorary degrees from the Universities of Uppsala and Iceland as well as by his membership of the Orders of Merit of Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

Throughout his retirement, Peter remained an active researcher and supervisor of doctoral students, and he taught occasionally in the Department of Scandinavian Studies into his eighties. He will be very much missed by his former colleagues at UCL and across Scandinavia and beyond. Details of a memorial event in his honour will be released in due course.

The Times obituary for Professor Foote, 15 October 2009.

The Guardian obituary for Professor Foote, 18 November 2009.