Professor Jonathan Osmond

1953-2014

A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and former Chair of Commissioning Group for National History Museum, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Professor Osmond's research interests were German art in the 19th and 20th centuries, Social and cultural history of the German Democratic Republic, German rural society.

Having worked in higher education both in the UK [Cardiff, Leicester] and overseas [Potsdam University, Humboldt University Berlin, Budapest], Professor Osmond joined Cardiff University in 1994 as Professor of Modern European History, serving as Head of its History department before becoming Head of Cardiff School of History and Archaeology for ten years [1996 – 2006]. He further served the University as Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education and Students [2007 – 2012].

Jonathan studied at Oxford University with Anthony Nicholls, and started his academic career writing about rural protest and politics in the Weimar Republic. He then played a leading role as one of a small group of English-speaking scholars doing pioneering work on the German Democratic Republic (GDR), then a neglected area of modern German history.

After publishing on the important topic of land reform in the GDR, Jonathan helped to turn Cardiff into one of the leading centres in Britain for the wider study of politics, society, and culture in the GDR. He was in Berlin in 1989, when with astonishing and unpredicted rapidity, the Communist regime of the GDR collapsed, and Jonathan used his first hand observation of events and significant actors to inform the valuable German Unification: A Reference Guide and Commentary which he published in 1992. By this time though Jonathan's attention had turned to the subject which preoccupied him in the final phase of his academic career: art and painting. He brought a love and passion for the visual arts to his close study of the painting of the GDR, travelling to visit and speak to individual artists there, and seeking to place their work in a longer continuum of German and indeed European cultural history.

Jonathan published a number of articles on painting in the GDR in specialist journals, and some of us were privileged to hear him speaking on individual paintings and painters in Cardiff and elsewhere at academic conferences. It is a tragedy that the prospect of Jonathan's bringing together his panoramic knowledge of German culture and history in a larger study of modern German painting has been frustrated by his untimely death.

He is remembered by the many academics, undergraduates, and postgraduate students who benefited from his kindness, his learning, and his wisdom.