In Memoriam: Paul Hyams

December 30, 2022 9:06 PM | Steven Isaac (Administrator)

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the death of Dr. Paul R. Hyams, a longtime friend and supporter of the Haskins Society. Paul was the President of the Haskins Society from 2006 to 2009. He hosted the Annual Haskins Society Conference at Cornell University from 1998 to 2003.

Paul studied at Oxford, Worcester College, and graduated (DPhil) in 1968. He spent the next 20 years at Pembroke College as a Fellow and Tutor in History. In 1989, he moved to New York, and spent the balance of his career as professor of history at Cornell University. He was the director of Cornell’s Medieval Studies Program from 2001-2007 and director of the Cornell Program for Law and Society from 1992-1997. He retired to Oxford in 2013.

Hyams’ scholarly work focused on law and its social effects. His influential works include Kings, Lords, and Peasants in Medieval England (1980) and Rancor and Reconciliation in Medieval England: Wrong and its Redress from the Tenth to Thirteenth Centuries (2003). These, along with numerous articles and book chapters, changed our perception of feuding, justice and law in the Middle Ages.

Hyams was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and as a Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America. In 2014, he was honored with a special issue of Reading Medieval Studies, Law’s Dominion in the Middle Ages: Essays for Paul Hyams.

Perhaps most importantly for those of us in the Haskins Society, Paul was a mentor and friend to many graduate students and early career historians. An Oxbridge-educated Jewish Yorkshireman, Paul understood what it meant to be an ‘outsider’. Perhaps because of this, he was a stalwart supporter of those of us who, through some misadventure, had no mentor or traditional advisor; he was our champion.

Paul was intellectually incorrigible. No assumption was off-limits, no question too obscure. He delighted in pushing established scholars into unexpected philosophical corners, yet was supportive and careful of younger historians. Because of his approach, he made the Haskins Society welcoming to generations of early career scholars. For this we will always be grateful.

Paul is survived by his wife Elaine, daughter Deborah and son David. Paul died on Dec 4, 2022. He was 82 years old.


  • January 02, 2023 6:17 AM | Graham Anthony Loud
    Very sad to hear this news. I attended two sets of Paul's lectures as an undergraduate - both very good, and those on the Jews in medieval England were inspiring. He also had the skill to make the complications of medieval law seem comprehensible to the neophyte. He later became a friend, and was always encouraging, especially during my fledgling years as a young academic.
    Link  •  Reply

© The Haskins Society
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software