David Morgan 30 July 1937 - 17 June 2020

David was treasured by many in the sociological community, and this page contains tributes written by a wide range of people who came into contact with David across the many decades of his career, and whose lives were influenced for the better because of that. Some of them knew him very well, some were acquaintances, but all share the deep sense of loss and the strong appreciation of his legacy. If you would like to make a tribute to be added to these pages please email it to: jennifer.mason@manchester.ac.uk.

A (long!) collection of memories and tributes follows. You may also like to read David's obituary, written by Sue Scott, in The Guardian or see the overview of his work on the Morgan Centre website.

Sketch: Lynne Chapman

Memories of David

Carol Smart CBE, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Manchester: In Memory of David Morgan

I know I am not alone in struggling to come to terms with the idea that David is no longer amongst us. For sociologists of my generation, David has been a constant intellectual presence. This, I suspect, gave rise to the assumption that he would continue to be so in the foreseeable future. The fact that he was still so engaged with academic work, still producing books, still attending conferences and so on, also gave rise to the impression that he was a permanent fixture. How easy it is to take people for granted and how shocking it is to discover his absence.

My special memory of David concerns the story of how it came about that we named our new research Centre at the University of Manchester after him. A small group of us were moving institutions and had the wonderful opportunity of starting something new from scratch. Necessarily we wanted our new Centre to have a name which would encapsulate all the intellectual approach(es) we were then developing. We also wanted a name that would be immediately intelligible to other colleagues in the field without being a dull, literal title. In addition we wanted the name to reflect the ethos of the Centre we were developing, namely collaborative, democratic, thoughtful and fun. It was a tall order but as soon as David’s name was mooted it was self-evidently the perfect fit. I think it speaks volumes about David as an intellectual and as a person that we knew instantly that we wanted to connect ourselves so closely with him.

It became my (delightful) job to put the proposition to David himself and we all felt that the best opportunity would be at the BSA annual conference which, in 2005, was held at the University of York. The whole operation was, at that time, totally confidential so I had the difficult task of extricating David from friends and colleagues at the conference. I think he must have thought me very rude as I dragged him away from the throng to find a quiet spot for us to talk. All the way I had to look daggers at anyone who tried to talk to David or impede us in any way. I made David sit down and gave him to understand I had something very important to impart. Poor David was, by then, looking a bit concerned. I’m not sure what he thought I was going to say, but I know he was not expecting what was coming. I told him of our deliberations and our aspirations and finished by asking him if he would allow us the honour of naming the Centre after him. He was a bit stunned. It had clearly never occurred to him that such a request might be made of him. I think he was also surprised because, as he said at the time, he wasn’t dead. He was of course referring to the convention, to which universities adhered, of not naming centres, institutes or buildings after living persons. This was of course a potential fly in the ointment but, for us, one of the main rationales was precisely to harness David’s intellectual and personal energy and character to our enterprise, whilst simultaneously wanting him to enjoy the acclaim he deserved. We were somewhat fearful that he might turn us down. After all there was a risk to his reputation if we turned out to be lacklustre and uninteresting. But to David’s credit I don’t think this possibility crossed his mind because he did not hesitate to agree to the proposition.

David gave the Morgan Centre fifteen years’ worth of his intellectual and personal support. We had placed no expectations on him at the start and we would have been happy just to have the loan of his name. But he gave us so much more than we ever expected. I am so glad that we came up with the idea to call the Centre after him back in 2005; it has been a pleasure and an honour to have had such a wonderful association.

David, with (from L) Jennifer Mason, John Gillis and Carol Smart at the official launch of the Morgan Centre.

Jennifer Mason, Morgan Centre, University of Manchester: The quiet magic of David Morgan

It is very hard to write about David in the past tense because I don’t want to accept that he has gone, and I know I am very far from being alone in this feeling. David was a remarkable scholar - a first rate sociologist with a fine intellect who continued to transform sociology over six decades with his gently revolutionary and profoundly influential ideas and ways of seeing. At the same time, he was the warmest, most personable and most ethical of human beings. I know his loss feels personal to many people, whether or not they were close associates of his, because David was treasured - so many of us can tell a story of an encounter with David that changed things for us personally, in a positive way. I have known David for well over 30 years and can recall numerous such encounters with him; I feel blessed that I am able to say that he was a friend and a close colleague for such a long time.

In remembering him now, I find I want to write about David’s voice, because this feels so central to the very special nature of him. I don’t just mean his sociological voice, which was so important not least in stoking a quiet revolution in what was formerly known as the sociology of the family, but also literally his voice – in a sensory way, with all its tones, sounds and cadences. When I think of David participating in a seminar, asking questions and making comments, or in a planning meeting for one of our Morgan Centre events or research bids, or in conversation, or making a presentation – I can hear the friendly, interested, softly spoken, thoughtful, gently hesitant yet always incisive, encouraging and inclusive tones of his voice. Very often these were overlaid with the most delightful tones of humour as well – he was incredibly witty. These elements of his voice seem to me crucial in how David did sociology, and collegiality, and influence. This is how he brought colleagues on (not least so many novice sociologists who were seeking to find their own voices and who he listened to and took seriously). It is also how he brought the discipline of sociology on (prizing mutual respect rather than divisiveness, listening and exploration rather than domination and suppression, intellectual curiosity rather than stultifying dogma). And this is how he brought his own transformative ideas on to the stage, in ways that inspired others to critically engage with them, take them up, try them out, develop them.

These qualities of voice could sometimes belie the strength of his influence and I think were also behind something I have come to think of as David’s ability to work his quiet magic on any sociological gathering, turning it into something positive, productive, engaged, respectful, decent, and an environment where ideas would flourish and better sociology would be done. Many years ago, when I was a novice sociologist giving one of my first papers, I was savaged by a senior academic who saw me as easy prey (I was!). I didn’t cope well in the Q&A, and several more senior folk kindly leapt to my defence and I battled on. Then David said something. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I do remember that it didn’t fit the adversarial mode: it was neither an attack on the questioner nor a defence of me. Instead, whatever it was it restored a composure to the room, and to me, and somehow instilled an atmosphere of mutual respect. This was my first direct and personal experience of David’s quiet magic, and I have seen him work it many times since. I think there are hundreds of beneficiaries of it, not least the discipline of sociology itself.

Over the years I have come to see that any sociological gathering was enhanced by David’s presence. It is no surprise then that when, in 2005, a group of 6 of us – Carol Smart, Vanessa May, Brian Heaphy, Becky Tipper, Beccy Shipman and myself – had the incredible opportunity to set up a new research centre, we should want to name it after David. In our minds this wasn’t to be a top-down, corporate, topic based centre, but one where we hoped we could spark new ideas and concepts by listening and engaging, where we could help each other to flourish in democratic dialogue, where we could be open to and excited by new ways of thinking, where we would be guided by values of mutual respect and decency. It was such an honour and a privilege for us that David said yes, we could use his name! And then to be lucky enough to have him participate so actively in the Morgan Centre and to continue to work his quiet magic over the first 15 years of the Centre’s life as it has grown and changed from those early days, has just been incredible. For me it has been the academic experience of a lifetime. I am going to miss David terribly, but I know that his remarkable legacy will continue to thrive in the voices of all those sociologists whose lives he has touched.


Vanessa May, Morgan Centre: I remember the first time I met David in 2005 so very clearly because it encapsulates for me the kind of colleague that he was. We were introduced to each other in passing outside the Sociology department. No doubt it was raining (it was Manchester after all) and we all had places to be, so we exchanged just a few words of introduction and some pleasantries. I hope I managed to convey to David how overjoyed I was over the fact that he had agreed for the Morgan Centre to be named after him. At the time, I was an early career research fellow of no repute, so I had no expectations that David would remember me. So you can imagine my surprise when, the next time we met, he greeted me warmly by name and asked me about my work. Fifteen years later, I know that this kind of attention to and interest in other people, no matter their status in academic hierarchies, was characteristic of David.

It didn’t take me long to realise that not only did David possess magical powers of name recollection, but also a sense of humour. In preparation of the Morgan Centre’s launch, some of us came up with the idea to serve cupcakes with David’s face inked on the icing. We kept this suggestion to ourselves however, thinking that such irreverence might not go down very well with an esteemed professor. I did for some reason tell his partner Janet about the cupcake idea during the launch, and she found it highly amusing and told us that on the contrary, David would have enjoyed the joke. For the Morgan Centre’s 10th anniversary, we served a cake with, yes, you guessed it, an image of David on the icing.

I will always remember the sense of joy that surrounded the launch of the Morgan Centre, which in no small measure had to do with David’s involvement. In the fifteen years that have elapsed, we never ceased to feel privileged to work with him. David not only lent his name to the Morgan Centre, but also generously gave us so much in terms of his time and attention. Attending most of our meetings and events, and meeting all of our visitors over coffee or lunch, David was central to shaping the work and the collegiate ethos of the centre. He always radiated good humour and any day that I saw David was a good day. David was a scholar through and through, conveying a sense unending curiosity, about the world and about other people’s work. He used his depth of knowledge and his creative intellect to draw out the sociological significance of seemingly mundane things, turning these into multidimensional phenomena of wonder, as reflected in his work on family practices, acquaintances and snobbery. It was fascinating to witness his mind at work during seminars and meetings: David could be trusted to make unexpected and exciting links between seemingly disparate topics. Conversations with him were in other words always good fun and stimulating. For me, David was the heart of the Morgan Centre and we will not be the same without him.

Finally, David gets his image on a cake...at the Morgan Centre 10th anniversary!

Chris Phillipson, Professor of Sociology and Social Gerontology, The University of Manchester: David was a terrific sociologist - absolutely one of the best. His writings have a remarkable quality; he really could 'think as a sociologist'. A rare quality but wonderfully expressed in his numerous books and papers. He was also highly supportive to all of those with whom he worked – as I personally experienced when arranging various seminars and conferences during my time at Keele. David will be hugely missed but his work will continue to influence and resonate through sociological research in numerous ways.

Alan Prout, Professor Emeritus at the University of Leeds: “I’m struggling to remember when, exactly, I became aware of David. It must have been in the early 1980s because I cited his book “Social Theory and the Family” in my PhD thesis. That was completed in 1985 and although my field at that time was medical anthropology (specifically an ethnography of what happened when children in a 1980s English primary school were off sick), David was where I went for inspiration on the family end of the process. From then on, he was a constant presence, not least in person as he was often, though working in Manchester, on the Keele campus where I was also based for a time in the 1990s when Janet was VC there. We shared a love of jazz and my fondest memory is putting together a small band, mostly of Keele students but with me on guitar, to play at his birthday party. It was held on the lawn of the VC’s residence, on a warm and sunny day of summer term. It must have been around 1997 (though I’m not entirely sure). David’s customary kindness was realised by the gazebo provided to keep the musicians from frying in the sun.

As a person David was kind, gentle and generous. He was, of course, the preeminent scholar of family sociology. He never ceased to consolidate, shake up and move his field forward. He also respected the specifics of what had by then become my own field – the sociology of childhood. We were struggling to carve out a distinct identity for the field. David was one of those family sociologists who was always helpful, scrupulously avoiding the temptation to re-absorb childhood entirely back into the family, recognising both the overlaps but also the differences. And characteristically of David that was a practical as well as a theoretical commitment. The last time I saw him was at Leeds University in 2016, where he had come to speak at the launch of Hayley Davies’s book Understanding children’s personal lives and relationships (see photo, of David with Hayley and Pia Christensen). He’d been Hayley’s PhD examiner and continued to support her work, which examines children’s relationships in but also beyond the family, when it was published in book form.

My very last memory of David also comes from that event. Travelling back home we waved goodbye through an open train door as it waited in Huddersfield station. I changed for Marsden. He continued his journey to Manchester and on to Nantwich.”

Sue Heath, Morgan Centre: I first met David back in the mid-90s in my first lectureship. David was a supportive, wise and generous colleague to me in those early years, always with a twinkle in his eye when discussing the more absurd aspects of academic life. In 2010, I found myself back in Manchester, this time with the huge honour of working alongside David in his very own centre. I have so many happy memories of David from these last ten years. His sense of fun inevitably features prominently, and I particularly remember a Morgan Centre meeting which included an agenda item on ResearchFish. David was greatly amused by the concept conjured up by this name, and after the meeting sent us all a list of examples of this rare and elusive species. And I of course remain hugely grateful to David for his always constructive and insightful comments on research ideas and for his intellectual influence more generally, especially his work on acquaintanceship. Some of my fondest memories of David are of his involvement in the Morgan Centre’s artist in residency project with Lynne Chapman. David threw himself into the project heart and soul, even hosting a ‘sketchcrawl’ in his hometown. David took great delight in showing us the sights, taking us to a favourite cafe for lunch, and then inviting us back to his lovely home for tea and cakes before we headed back to Manchester: a perfect example of David’s kindness, generosity and warmth, which I will miss so much.

David was an enthusiastic participant in Morgan Centre activities, including our Sketching Research project with Lynne Chapman. Clockwise from top left: Nantwich sketchcrawl; line portrait of David by Vanessa May; and Manchester Museum sketchcrawl.

Dr Gaëlle Aeby, research associate, University of Geneva, Switzerland: In 2016-2017, I had the opportunity to spend 18 months as a post-doctoral fellow at the Morgan Centre. I was inspired during my PhD in Switzerland by the pioneering work of David Morgan and the work of the other enthusiastic scholars there. As an emeritus professor, David Morgan played a key-role to personally welcome and encourage young visiting researchers like me. At the time of my stay, the Morgan Centre was hosting an artist in residence, and we went on several urban sketching adventures up to Nantwich, the hometown of David Morgan. I will always keep fond memories of this period and of his kindness. Dear David, may you rest in peace.

Graham Crow, University of Edinburgh: I’ve always thought of David as a role model. Such were his many and varied qualities that he was the consummate all-rounder who was always good to have in the room, whatever the task and whatever the topic. He had a rare generosity of spirit. Like so many other people, I’ll miss him greatly.

David receiving his BSA Distinguished Achievement Award in 2016

Colette Fagan, Professor and Vice-President for Research, The University of Manchester: Society is impoverished when we lose good people like David. When I heard the news there were grey clouds and rain that day, which mirrored my sadness. I was attracted to sociology precisely by the kind of sociology which David produced. David was the Postgraduate research admissions director (think we called them officers back then) when I applied to Manchester; he interviewed me and encouraged me to start my part-time PhD as a mature student when I didn't know how to write a proposal. He was a cherished mentor whenever needed in those early years and, with Janet, ever since. Like many my life, and I hope my sociology, was better because of him and Janet.

Dr JRE LEE (once of the Sociology Department, Manchester): I have learned with much sadness of David's death even though I have lived abroad many years and therefore have not seen him for a long time. Nevertheless I knew him as a fellow student at Hull and as a colleague at Manchester for thirty years. In all the time I knew him I found him to be to be a helpful, kindly, gentle and well spirited man. Whilst we had some disagreement as to the nature of our subject his contribution to our frequent and friendly discussion was wise, learned and much appreciated. Despite the eminence he achieved in British Sociology he remained modest, available and thoroughly decent. He was much loved by both students and colleagues. His passing brings back many memories.

Julia Brannen: Remembering David Morgan: I first met David Morgan at Manchester University in 1964 when I was an undergraduate in the Department of Social Anthropology that, with the arrival of Peter Worsley and other sociologists, led to the establishment of the Department of Sociology where David taught for much of his career. Over several decades David has been central to my own development as a sociologist. So too he has been inspirational for generations of sociologists. It is a great sadness to learn of his death.

David's was a life well lived and I'm very glad to have been a small part of it. This is a lovely picture of him on Wednesday 25 February 2004. Thoughts are with Janet. (Liz Stanley, a friend & Manchester colleague from the 80s and 90s)

David made a landmark contribution to sociology through his work, particularly to the rethinking of the sociology of family life, with a focus on how everyday family lives and personal relationships are accomplished. He was among the first to contribute to the development of the sociology of masculinity. David continued to apply his sociological imagination with great eclat; in 2018 his study of snobbery was published, a social phenomenon that sociology had previously ignored.

David Morgan’s writing achieves that rare feat in sociology of being conceptually sophisticated and subtle without compromising accessibility and elegance. However, David was much more than a theorist and scholar. He understood in his inimitable way what it means to be collegiate. His contribution to the sociological community was evident in a multitude of ways from his work for the British Sociological Association (he was president in 1997-99) and editor of Sociology to the countless expressions of gentle kindness and generosity to students and colleagues alike. It is a measure of the many ways in which he has been valued and his work appreciated that a research centre was established in his honour during his lifetime – The Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives at the University of Manchester. David Morgan is a huge loss to the sociological community. We will miss him greatly.

David, mid-speech at his 80th birthday party

Jenny Hockey, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Sheffield: As an anthropologist and now a poet I've always derived huge pleasure from David Morgan's attentiveness to the subtle grain of everyday life. Who else would have alerted me to the place of acquaintanceship, that quiet feature of social relationships? David enriched my teaching, my research and, importantly, my everyday life. Consistently warm and approachable, he once made a public plea for sustaining personal relationships in academia through small, generous gestures - a signed message in a book passed on. That plea has never been more vital.

Rachel Thomson, University of Sussex: Doing David Morgan

David Morgan was one of my teachers in the Dept of Sociology at the University of Manchester in 1985. He was a gentle man who was also a gentleman – spanning two very different generations: one shaped by civility, etiquette and a gendered division of labour and one shaped by feminism, reflexivity and equality. David was interested in masculinities, styles of interaction and manners – sensibilities of what then was an unnamed Englishness which I have always interpreted as a coming to terms with the post-war post-colonial melancholy that changed the way that people do intimacies. This is also political work, slowly undoing the entrenched forms of privilege (gender, race and class) that only accrue through everyday day repetition into experience and expectation.

One of David’s clearest contributions to the sociology of the family (itself an anachronistic category) was to shift attention from family as a noun – a thing, to family as a set of practices (doing). A subtle yet profound shift that let go of the naturalising logics of functionalism to centre human agency, diversity and mutability at the heart of an analysis that would also always need to be historical and anthropological and sociological. As a student who kept coming back to sociology in my work I maintained a relationship with David – witnessing the naming of the Morgan Centre, a wonderful festrift that helped me gain perspective on his biography and the impact of his work through research and teaching.

With my colleague Janet Boddy I teach a module based around David’s conceptualisation of family practices in the third year of an undergraduate degree in Childhood and Youth Studies. We use ‘Morgan’s themes’ to help make sense of how and why the meaning of parenting is so contingent yet powerful in shaping lives and ideas of respectability, health and inclusion/ exclusion. The students always eventually ‘get it’ and keep hold of the insights and the profoundly sociological way of thinking that they express – resulting in critical, reflexive and non-judgemental practitioners.

I feel very fortunate to have been one of David’s ‘fellow travellers’ over the years, a kind of acquaintanceship that would have interested him and which his work encourages us to consider as part of the web of relationships that together constitute social, emotional and everyday living. I would say I will miss him, but in the best possible way I feel that David reproduced himself through ideas that have been adopted, adapted and internalised by his community. We all ‘do’ David Morgan in our own ways.


Julian Laite, University of Manchester Department of Sociology, 1972 to 1987: A quiet, thoughtful manner belied David's brilliance as an original researcher and author. His work on the family and gender identity was unprecedented. As a colleague he was always supportive towards me, the youngest member of the Department at the time, as we worked together on Departmental Committees. He was also one of the wittiest men I have ever known, with a dry aphoristic humour. His observations on "Exchanging peasantries", and "Speaks fact for themselves" aptly summed up two of the main schools of thought in the Department during the 1970s. And as a friend I remember still the wild dancing at his parties in Withington.....

Michael Erben, Honorary Fellow, University of Southampton: I knew David for over 30 years, our contact beginning shortly before we founded (with Liz Stanley) the BSA Auto/Biography Study Group in 1990. My first impression of David was his gracious manner. As I began to know him better and a friendship began I appreciated and valued his scholarly advice, his kindly humour, his gentle manner and his understated academic excellence. Above all David was a good and decent man, which is no small thing. David was one of the key respondents for a book Hilary Dickinson and I wrote in 2016. The generous time and care he took over an anonymous contribution was something really quite astonishing and typical of his modest scholarly attitude.

Sophie Woodward, Morgan Centre, University of Manchester: I first met David when I joined the Morgan Centre in 2009; having worked at a variety of different universities, I instantly loved working in sociology at manchester and came to feel like the Morgan Centre was my intellectual home. David was a big part of that not only in it being named after him but also in his incredible intellectual contribution and collegiality. David came to everything, and any event I organised he always emailed afterwards to say he had enjoyed it. This kindness and thoughtfulness was characteristic of David, as was his insightfulness, he always had a comment to make of any paper that always proved insightful. I feel so lucky to have had David as a colleague, as he embodied academic kindness, humility and generosity.

Eric Widmer, Professor of family sociology, University of Geneva: I invited David Morgan at a colloquium in the early 2000 in Switzerland in which were discussed the premises of the configurational approach of families. As a young scholar at the time, I was struck by the generosity and cleverness of David, who provided ideas and feedback which have helped us throughout the years to move forward in our understanding of complex family networks. His work on family practices has been a great help for us family sociologists to connect questions specific to our sub-field with larger sociological issues about cultural practices, social class and gender, and institutions. His work has constantly been with us in the Research Network on Family and Intimate Lives of the European Sociological Association. We have just lost a great mind and a great source of sociological inspiration.

Jane McCarthy (Open University and University of Reading): I was so sad to hear the unexpected news about David. It was only last year that we were working together on his article for the special issue of the Journal of Family Issues, and it meant a great deal that he was able to contribute to our work on family troubles. He was always very kind and supportive to me, ever since he examined my PhD in 1990, and in return, I have always found his work quite inspirational and absolutely central to my own work over the years. When I was working on my Phd, I was so happy to find a 'proper sociologist' who was fully engaged with 'family' lives from both a theoretical and an everyday level, and his work only went on from strength to strength over the years, as has been so widely recognised of course. Yet he was also such an unassuming man. When I first met him in person, at a BSA/ESRC summer school for doctoral students, he asked me really diffidently if I'd like to talk to him about my work, which of course I was really delighted to do. But I also remember him before that, at the very first BSA Annual Conference I attended, in 1986, when he got merrily involved in a production of 'Back to the SSRC'. A beautiful person and a truly inspirational sociologist.

Ros Edwards, Professor of Sociology, University of Southampton: I was so sad to hear about the death of David Morgan. He has been an intellectual presence in my life as a researcher of families since undertaking my PhD studies three decades ago. David was – is and will be, because his work lives on – a major influence in the field of family sociology. He opened up the idea of family as something live and vibrant and created, and gave me and others the conceptual tools to explore the nuances and facets of family life. My understanding of families would be lesser and in fact rather static and dull, were it not for David’s theorising and in particular the orientation of ‘family practices’ with its multi-faceted features. As well as researching families I also taught an undergraduate module on the topic. Students immediately grasped the idea of family practices and enjoyed applying it to their own and others’ family lives and discovering the strangeness of the known. I knew David as a giant with shoulders to stand on analytically rather than personally, but whenever I did meet him he always was kind, helpful and self-effacing. A deeply thoughtful scholar.

Hazel Burke, Morgan Centre: I met David in 2005 when he was the VIP guest at the Morgan Centre official launch and I was the Centre Administrator. I was shy and tried to avoid having to talk to him, so when I found myself sitting next to him I blurted out a daft question about what it was like to have a centre named for you, expecting a jokey reply. David paused for an incredibly long time and then said, very seriously, ‘Well, of course, it is a great honour’.

I know now, of course, that the honour was ours. David came to most of our events and meetings and, lucky for me, often arrived for meetings with time to spare to chat about everything from scene painting, to swearing, to sausage roll innovations. I liked how he never seemed to judge things (or people) as too small to be worth the attention. I also loved his commitment to not letting good cake go to waste at conferences.

Dr Helen Norman, Leeds University Business School: David was such a generous and inspirational colleague - he will be sorely missed. David always made time to stop at my desk to say hello on his visits to the Morgan Centre. He was willing and interested to engage with my research, and he provided invaluable comments on my first sole-authored paper that was later published. Sociology has truly lost one of its greats. Thank you so much for your time and wise words David, it was such a privilege to know you.

Sue Scott (Honorary Professor, Newcastle University and Visiting Professor, Helsinki University)

A Tribute to David H J Morgan for the Morgan Centre

My first encounter with DHJ Morgan was in the summer of 1971 when I read Introducing Sociology (the textbook edited by Peter Worsley and written by colleagues in the Manchester sociology department) as part of the pre course reading for my sociology degree. I still have the book with an inscription from David written more recently. I didn’t actually meet David until 1978 when I was a graduate student at Lancaster and he came to give a seminar on his work on the Bloomsbury Group – I found his way of linking sociology, social networks and culture fascinating and, after talking to him at the post seminar dinner, I knew that I would like to get to know him better. This was confirmed when we met again, later in 1978, at the BSA Summer School (on Feminist Theory) where he was a tutor. We served on the BSA Executive together in the 1980s - I remember nervously asking him if he would nominate me for election and him being typically supportive. It was then my great good fortune to have him as a colleague in my first lectureship, at Manchester, between 1986 and 1992. Teaching with David was a joy – his background in amateur dramatics came to the fore and he could be very expansive. I also supervised several PhD students with him and learnt that, while he might look as if he’d dozed off, he would always have a pertinent and helpful comment to make at just the right moment. It was especially enjoyable to edit Body Matters with him in the early 1990s. During this period David supervised my then partners PhD, and later was my sister, Sara’s, supervisor. We kept in touch after I left Manchester and it was always a great pleasure to spend social time with him sitting round a dinner table turning everything into sociology.

David was a Visiting Professor at Keele, when I was a Dean there and we would often meet for coffee, as well as at more formal occasions linked to Janet’s role as Vice Chancellor – one of the many special things about David was that he was always himself, as a person apart from University politics, and so talking to him was like taking a little holiday. In 2014 I had the honour of interviewing him as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations for the sociology department at Manchester at present it is very hard to watch that video (see photo), but it is a precious thing to have. In early March this year, we spent a very enjoyable time working on a presentation for the BSA conference, which, sadly, was cancelled because of Covid19.

David was extremely supportive of both students and colleagues. He had the gentlest way of offering constructive criticism, always encouraging the exercise of sociological imagination and inculcating a sense that your research was important to him, but never trying to shape it in his image. He was brilliant at being there beside you while you found your own way – rather like a parent gently holding onto the bicycle saddle, while the child wobbles along, and then knowing exactly when to let go.

For me David was more than a colleague and a friend he was a member of my family of choice. I am finding it hard to imagine the sociological landscape without him, because, for me, he has always been there, but at the same time I know that the impression he made on me will never fade.

June Purvis: I am so sorry to hear of the death of David. He was a kind, lovely man and I always remember reading that early chapter he wrote on the masculine ethos of tutorials etc in higher education with phrases such as 'wiping the floor with him'. My deepest sympathy.

Kathryn Almack – Professor of Health and Family Lives, University of Hertfordshire: David was such an outstanding sociologist but more than that, he will be remembered as the most generous, humble, genuine and kind man. Such a lovely man who had time for everybody and an intellectual capacity that was inspirational. He will live on in so many people’s memories and in our work. A fitting tribute would be the hope that he continues to inspire what he role-modelled so well in the academic world – intellectual curiosity, collegiality and kind acts.

Allison James, Professor Emerita, University of Sheffield: Although I never worked directly with David, our paths crossed over many years in different research settings and his work on family practices was inspirational for my own research, as it was for many others. Whenever we met I was always so touched by his generosity of interest in my work and valued greatly his quiet observations and words of gentle encouragement.

Professor Robert Moore, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Liverpool: In the late 1960s the whole membership of the BSA met in a large lecture theatre in Bedford College in Regents Park. Looking around the room it was possible to identify everyone there (or nearly everyone). More recently, in large conference venues, it has, for me, always been a sea of unfamiliar faces. The one instantly recognisable figure was always David Morgan. We worked in very different fields of sociology and I suspect that David knew more about mine than I did his – except I knew his ground-breaking work on families, relationships and everyday life had established him as one of our foremost sociologists. After friendly greetings David and I would just chat about sociology in general and colleagues past and present in particular. David’s comments on sociology were always wise and insightful, in talking about colleagues he was always kindly, his quiet humour usually broke through in both discussions. David and I were of the same generation, inhabiting different parts of the sociological landscape, but he was always there, a friend, and however brief our meetings I enjoyed his company. I shall miss him, a truly good man.

A selection of David's books

Clare Holdsworth, Keele University: I was very fortunate to count David Morgan as a colleague and friend. I wrote my first book with David on leaving home, which was based on an ESRC-funded study that we carried out on leaving home in Britain, Spain and Norway. I met David when I worked for Angela Dale at Manchester University in the 1990s. Angela was very much ahead of her time and we were all expected to regularly submit ESRC grant applications and it was her idea that David and I should work together and apply for funding. I was a young and inexperienced researcher and it never occurred to me that this study was also a new experience for David, whose work had always been more theoretical and observant rather than empirical. Looking back we were an odd couple to work together, but the collaboration with David was so formative for me, I learnt so much about the kind of researcher that I wanted to be.

David meant so much to me as academic and friend, most of all because of his ability to think through contradictory ideas, his tremendous knowledge of sociological literature and his enduring curiosity with everyday life. My fondest memories are of visiting David at his and Janet’s home at Keele University to talk about our book. We would sit in the living room and talk about anything and everything (not always about the book!). And we laughed. David never took himself too seriously, he was far too good a scholar to do that. From David I learnt to think not linearly but around topics and issues and to bring together seemingly unconnected ideas and writing.

I last saw David in person in Manchester early in 2020 and he was, as always, inspiring and insightful. He recommended that I take a look at David Sudnow’s book Ways of the Hand. I would never have encountered this delightful book about learning jazz piano if it was not for David and like so many of his recommendations it has proved to be incredibly useful in developing my research ideas. David was uniquely gifted in recognising the value of scholarship over and above its specific context and weaving these ideas into his own inspirational and thought-provoking writings on family practices and everyday life. David was a wonderfully expressive writer. I remember writing a paper together on ‘the generalised other’, we were struggling with the conclusion, so David went away and wrote a paragraph of ‘purple prose’ (his words) which elevated the quality of the argument we were trying to make. David also very generously let me take credit, as junior partner (David had taken retirement when we worked together) it was always my name first on publications.

I am so grateful for Angela for introducing us and for the opportunity that I had to work with David. I will miss his company, his random inspiration and most of all his generosity and kindness.


Victoria Robinson, Professor of Sociology, University of York: I first encountered David's work on masculinity in the early 1990s, when I was beginning to theorise this area, and just starting out on my academic career. I remember feeling that here was a man who understood the need to talk about masculinity, but also how important it was, both politically and theoretically, not to lose sight of men's power or feminist contributions to these debates. Later, he gave a very warm and generous endorsement for my first monograph, as well as having offered really insightful commentary on drafts of the chapters. The book was all the better for his input. But what really stands out is how, every time I met him, at a conference, for example, he always took the time to talk, ask about any research I was doing and offer his help. I also remember him looking very cool in a polo neck on occasion!

Dr Bernadette Casey (Retired): David was my supervisor at Manchester, initially in 1978-9, when I undertook a Master’s thesis under his tutelage and then for the next several years, as a Ph.D candidate. Hearing of his death yesterday, I felt a great sadness, but today I have taken time to reflect on David’s significance in my life. What follows are some thoughts about David’s character and personal influence, not organised into a coherent whole but as they occur to me.

He was a most kind, gentle and patient supervisor. As a mature student, I moved to Manchester to undertake a 1-year Master’s degree, my personal circumstances meaning that I was living alone as an adult for the first time in my life, something both exciting and a bit terrifying. I was commuting fortnightly back to Plymouth where my children were living with my estranged husband. David instantly understood the emotional, economic and time-related stresses of my situation and was always accommodating and understanding about all of it. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that he was an intellectual force, someone who was a marvellous teacher, who could grasp the strengths and weaknesses of his students’ work and was able to steer them in a positive direction. I don’t remember him ever being anything but modest about his own considerable achievements, but he used his intelligence and expertise to stimulate discussion and push us all forward. His commitment to the sociology of the everyday was massively important to me, as was his encouragement to focus on the minutiae of social interaction as part of my research.

David encouraged me to believe in myself. This may sound dramatic, but at the time, I had little confidence, especially in the world of academia. I was the first in my family to go on to higher education but had left school at 16 and not long after had become a pregnant teenage bride. By the time I stepped over the threshold in the sociology department at Manchester, I had gained a degree and some self-belief, but David never failed to boost and bolster this feeling. Although we were from very different backgrounds and I was only beginning in academic life, he treated me like an equal and never patronised me or spoke down to me.

After the first year at Manchester, having gained my Master’s, David not only encouraged me to begin a Ph.D with him as my supervisor, but helped me find a way to do field work in Plymouth so that I needn’t commute and be away from my family. After that, David and I conducted our supervisor/student relationship mainly by post, in the days before the internet. I would write field notes every night and post them off to him on a weekly basis. Then he would post it all back to me with his extensive and useful comments on my work. I always felt supported, stimulated and encouraged. David was the first person to tell me I could write; in fact, he said my field notes made him laugh and that I should turn them into a radio play. I never did, but his kind words meant a lot to me.

On trips to Manchester for seminars or face-to-face supervision, David would put me up in his house, cook for me and entertain me with stories many and varied. I particularly remember him regaling me with tales of being teased by the women in the factory in Salford where he had previously conducted research. He talked fondly of his children and although I never met Jacqui or Julian, I felt as though I knew them. One time, David cooked a delicious chicken and prune tagine which he explained was a recipe given to him by a (French?) anthropologist. The recipe was passed on by word of mouth from the north African people she was studying, to her, to David and to me. I still make that dish even now.

My doctorate took a very long time to complete, for various reasons. Many times, I almost gave up. At one point the piles and piles of draft chapters, field notes and David’s comments, lay in boxes under my bed for over a year while our house was treated for dry rot and I gave birth to twins. He never gave up on me, but kept telling me, very gently, that he was always there should I find the time to get back to work. This was so important at a time when the mountain looked too high to scale and it is down largely to David’s belief in me that the thesis was finally successfully completed. I have fond memories of post-viva drinks in central Manchester with David.

David introduced me to Janet and they both came to stay with Neil and me in Plymouth. I remember that our house was by then so full of children that we had to put Janet and David up in a three-quarter size bed in a room which doubled as the kids’ playroom. They endured what must have been some discomfort with customary cheerfulness and we had a jolly evening full of food and wine while we swapped many stories.

I’m not sure when I last saw David or Janet, but it must be at least 20 years ago. I have followed their careers with interest, and kept up with their major milestones, mainly by the Christmas cards we exchanged every year. I am so sorry that I didn’t see David in recent years, but will remain ever grateful to him for the immense positive influence he had on me. I send my sincere condolences to Janet and to the rest of David’s family.


Dr Leah Gilman, Morgan Centre: I feel very lucky to have known David and to have been his colleague for the last few years. Since he was already officially retired by the time I started at Manchester, I did not know him as well as many others contributing here. But you did not have to spend long in David’s company to find you liked him a lot and to experience his kindness and intelligence. I will remember him for his brilliant analytical thinking and also the generosity and humility with which he shared his knowledge and insights with me, and the many many others who have learned so much from and through him.

Bryan Roberts, C.B. Smith Sr. Chair Emeritus in US-Mexico Relations # 1, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin: David was one of my oldest friends, knowing him since 1964, and one for whom I had a considerable admiration on both personal and academic grounds. He was a thoughtful and innovative thinker; whose analysis of social theory was first-class. His work on the family had a considerable academic impact, not only in Europe, but also in the United States. My colleague at Texas, Christine Williams, currently President of the American Sociological Association, thought David’s books on the family the best that she had read in many a year. He was a great companion and friend – his satires of academic convention were funny and on the mark. He had great skill with writing on diverse topics that included film and music. My wife, Sue and I shared many camping trips, walks and holidays with him, his children and his first wife, Rosemary, mainly in the Lake District, but also in Spain. Sue and I did manage to keep in touch with David and Janet, his second wife, until relatively recently. I include a photo of Janet, David and Susan walking in the rain in the peak district in 1986. This was the last year that I worked in Manchester before leaving for the United States. It was also the year of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in April and the four of us were caught in the Chernobyl rain that fell that day in northern England. At the time it was funny since we were all soaked and tried to change in our car without great success but did have a great meal when we got home.

I have very good memories of Manchester and its Department of Sociology. David’s warmth, sensitivity to others and insights into British life and politics, was, and is an enduring anchor of those memories.

Professor Linda McKie, Dean/Head of School Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh: My memories of David go back to the late 1980s and my early involvement with the Women’s Caucus of the British Sociological Association. At the time I was in my first lectureship post and a single parent. David was always warm and welcoming when you met him. I recall him nudging me to feel confident enough to speak up at the conferences in Plymouth 1989, Surrey, 1990 and Manchester 1991. Heady days in those post Thatcher years when major social changes seemed possible. Over the years our respective areas of work overlapped at times and we enjoyed a number of conversations and exchanges of work as we considered the changes and continuities in families and relationships. David offered advice on careers too and I know at times he shared experiences which caused myself to stop and reflect. My daughter Laura, now 40, recalls David too. All those BSA creches at the Annual and Medical Sociology conferences and David always took time to stop and talk with the then budding social analysts! Thanks David for your generosity, insight and challenging ideas, your warmth and smile. Your work will live on as will our memories of your input to our lives.


Associate Professor Elena Moore, Dept. of Sociology, University of Cape Town: I am very saddened by the loss of your colleague and friend David. David is a remarkable human and he remains with us.

I got to know David in 2010 as I first met him during my PhD studies at a Auto/Biographies conference in England. I wanted to share some memories and thoughts with his family members and colleagues as I held David in such high regard, not only because of his leading scholarship, but more importantly because he was so humane, approachable and kind.

As a young emerging scholar and a naiive doctoral graduate, David took the time to work with me and support me in so many ways. When I look back, I actually think I leant on him too much. He read through one draft of a paper on ‘Biographies and the Home as a site of resistance’. He acted as a referee (I see that I asked him back in 2018 when I am sure he had more important things to do) he helped me think through a paper on customary marriage, divorce and femininities. He was always willing to respond to an email or a question. But also, in 2015 he took the time to walk, talk and to listen.

Whilst I thanked him after each occasion, I never got the opportunity to thank him for the entirety of his support. The academic environment can be cruel for young scholars but David was one of the few academics who didn’t engage in academic hierarchal interactions – this is something I have learned from him which I now adopt in my praxis here in Cape Town.

I would love to share my most recent paper with him on fatherhood, customary practices and masculinities. In 2012 he recommended that I read a few scholars who wrote on personhood in African contexts – needless to say, almost 10 year later – I find the references and concepts highly significant in understanding fathering and masculinities in the SA context. I am forever grateful for his presence and support.

My condolences to the family and close friends. He is a remarkable man and remains with us.

Owen Abbott, University of Manchester: As many others have said in tribute, I have always been so struck by David's unassuming warmth and kindness. A few years ago, a few colleagues and I were invited for our first meeting with the Morgan Centre. Due to us new faces, the meeting proceeded with a round of introductions, with people saying who they are and what their current work was looking at. I seem to remember nervously rattling on about what my PhD had been about and what I was planning on doing next, before others' described their work and how their current projects and funding bids were going. It was then the turn of the gentleman in the corner, who had found something nice to say about everyone's current research. He said something to the effect of 'Hello, I'm David, and I am currently looking into snobbery, which I don't think has been properly investigated in sociology so far'. In respect of the humbleness of this statement, somebody then followed this up with, 'For those of you who don't know, this is David, as in David Morgan, of Morgan Centre fame'.

David then came up to me after the meeting, and (very generously) said that he was interested in the ideas I'd discussed, and asked if I would have time to discuss them further over a cup of coffee. I remember being so incredibly nervous at first, but his warmth put me at ease right away, something which has been echoed in many other tributes from those who have met David early on in their academic careers. He has been such an inspiration to me and to everyone else through his work, but it is the softly-spoken kindness and wisdom that he brought to every discussion that I found truly inspirational. His humbleness, the warmth that he showed to colleagues, and the interest he found in everybody's ideas is a way of being in academia that I will always aspire to.


Jeff Hearn, University of Huddersfield, UK; Örebro University, Sweden; Hanken School of Economics, Finland: It was with very great sadness that I learnt of David’s recent death. David was a true, kind, generous and very humorous person, and all of those qualities mingled with his professional, academic and sociological activities in so many ways, both small and everyday, and large and consequential in the wider scene – though he would probably be the first to see the everyday as necessarily consequential.

I won’t list all his wide-ranging achievements in the sociologies of the family, personal relationships, gender relations, men and masculinities, work and organisations, auto/biography, and more recently acquaintanceship and snobbery, but two especially stay with me. One is his book, Discovering Men, published in 1992, that brought together autobiographical reflections and broader sociological analysis; and the other his major contributions to the more collective work, Making Men into Fathers: Men, Masculinities and the Social Politics of Fatherhood, coordinated and edited by Barbara Hobson, published ten years later, and one of the best books on fathering and fathering practices.

We met in the early 1980s at the BSA and worked together in various ways over the next 20 years or more. In 1983, we drew up, with four other men, a short statement on the need to change the gender relations of sociology itself, “Changing men’s sexist practices in sociology”, and then co-organised the 1988 BSA Social Theory Group International Conference on Men, Masculinities and Social Theory, one of the first international events of its kind, that led onto our 1990 co-edited book. The conference was attended by 101 participants (recorded at the time as 45 women and 56 men), was highly charged, and included various gender caucuses. After the formal end of the conference, there was an impromptu post-conference reflective session, maybe some 25 people; everyone was trying to fathom out what had actually been happening over previous few days; towards the end of the lively discussion, I recall David commenting “I think we’ve been doing sociology”. His work has been fundamental in forming critical sociological research on men and masculinities.

I think that our last meeting was in Örebro, Sweden, when he kindly and elegantly was the appointed manuscript commentator or so-called "opponent" at a so-called "final seminar" for a doctoral candidate. You could never anywhere wish for a less opponent-like final opponent; David would have appreciated that sentiment!

His presence has strongly influenced very many, including me, as a support, guide, mentor, collaborator and friend. His strong sociological presence stays with me. David has left a permanent, kind, gentle, humorous and very important scholarly legacy in sociology, as well as beyond in other disciplines, notably, gender studies, auto/biography studies, and organisation studies.

Above all, he was intensely modest and deeply collegial, through and through, whether it was in all his work for the BSA, Network magazine, the fathering book noted above, or collective research discussions on violence, abuse and gender relations. One last collegial memory is the roundtable discussion at the 1997 BSA conference with David, along with Margaret Collinson, who very sadly died last year, David Collinson and myself on the neglected, but obvious, topic of sociology and/of conferences, entitled ‘Conferences, power and resistance’. It was a sheer joy to think aloud with David and friends in the conference on the very subject.

I miss you and your calm influence, David.


Chrissie Rogers, Professor of Sociology, Tizard Centre, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent: I am more than happy to say, David was much loved by many, he was more than an academic mentor, he was a friend. He had no reason to approach me as a PhD student in the early 00s when I presented my work at the BSA annual conference. As a mother with a disabled daughter, the methods I chose were reflexive, personal and yet sociologically significant. He could see that and encouraged me to publish, which I did with his support. I was touched and amazed. I was a 'young' PhD student and knew no different. I did not know then, quite how special he was. We kept in touch, mainly via the A/B study group, and the BSA conf. But we also exchanged Christmas cards and had a lovely connection. As I moved through academic life, it became more evident that David was a real jewel as he selflessly supported his junior, and then not so junior, peers. He had an incredible warmth that spread within his networks and beyond. I will cherish our relationship and can only hope to have a ounce of his humility, generosity of spirit and quiet confidence.

Dr. Seán Damer, Honorary Research Fellow, School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh: I knew David Morgan very well when I worked in the Sociology Department at Manchester from 1976 to 1980. Our offices were adjoining, and we co-taught the Honours course on The Sociology of the Family & Sex Roles. Besides being a colleague and friend, David was also the Internal Examiner for my Ph.D. Thesis in 1979.

David was the most generous of colleagues with advice, assistance, encouragement and time. He was a committed and inspired teacher, his lectures were models of clarity and conciseness, and he had a gift for bringing out the best in the students he supervised. He was also very good at counselling students with academic and personal problems, and had a great deal of insight into emotional angst. His diffident manner concealed a first-rate mind, and he was always at the head of the field in terms of sociological research into the family and gender roles.

David was also possessed of a very nice sense of humour, of the kind we call 'pawky' in Scotland, and could be very witty about the foibles of colleagues, although entirely without malice. He was a lovely man as well as being an excellent professional sociologist – funny, kind, patient and warm, a prized colleague and friend. He will be sorely missed. R.I.P.


Julia Mortimer, Journals Director, Bristol University Press/Policy Press: David was instrumental in helping us get the Families, Relationships and Societies journal off the ground as a member of the Management Board, an Open Space Editor, and more latterly in working with Guest Editors to prepare Special Issues for the journal. We greatly valued his generosity of spirit, his sharp insight and willingness to get involved practically at every level. Personally, I found David to be one of the kindest, gentlest most generous people I have known and I already missed the fact that I didn’t get to see him twice a year once he stepped back from the journal. We are working on ways to honour David in the journal and would welcome any ideas.

Mim Bernard, Emeritus Professor of Social Gerontology, Keele University: Not being a sociologist, I only really got to know David from the mid-1990s when Janet was appointed as Keele’s Vice Chancellor. Nearly a decade later, I was privileged to be able to co-supervise a doctoral student with him. David was unfailingly supportive and encouraging during supervision sessions: both to our student and to me. I also came to experience and treasure his wisdom and scholarship as well as his dry sense of humour. He always had a twinkle in his eye! Having stayed in touch after he and Janet left Keele, I was delighted that he was able to make the trip to my own retirement celebrations in Keele Hall at the end of 2018 when, sadly, Janet was unable to attend. It was a joy to see him – and to have known such a kind and compassionate man.

Dr Jane Pilcher, SFHEA, Associate Professor of Sociology, Nottingham Trent University: I’m so very sorry to hear about David. I only met David a few times but always found him (and his writing) approachable, supportive and inspiring.

Petra Nordqvist, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, University of Manchester: David was such a special person that no words are really adequate; he is so very missed. He was a brilliant, insightful and lovely colleague, and I always admired how generous and kind he always was to everyone; he always made time to respond to a question, or read a paper or a proposal. I loved his way of engaging with the world, and with sociological thought and theory, with so much integrity, imagination and sensitivity, but also humility and humour. In one of the early Morgan Centre Zoom meetings after the pandemic struck and lock-down began, I remember us talking about the emerging pitfalls of navigating public space. I especially remember him saying that he exercises the way he always did, i.e. going for a walk, but now he was pondering on how to make it look as if he was exercising. He said it with his wonderful smile and that glimmer in his eyes - thinking of him saying that always makes me smile! Already, only weeks after losing him, have there been moments when I’ve wanted to e-mail him and ask for this advice. It is a true honour to have known and worked with David; he left a wonderful legacy in the world, and it is an honour to carry it forward in our work in the Morgan Centre.

Gayle Letherby, Honorary Professor, University of Plymouth and Visiting Professor, University of Greenwich: I met David Morgan 30 years ago when I was a postgraduate student and he has been an intellectual inspiration, and role model, to me throughout my career. Always kind, forever generous with his time and advice I can think of many, many occasions when David helped and guided me and I know that many colleagues would say the same of him. I appreciate too his thinking and his breath of writings. Although it’s hard to pick one area, for me, given my own academic concerns his work on auto/biography is particularly significant. I have quoted the following several times for as David says auto/biography is not:

". . . simply a shorthand representation of autobiography and/or biography but also [a] recognition of the inter-dependence of the two enterprises. . . . In writing another’s life we also write or rewrite our own lives; in writing about ourselves we also construct ourselves as some body different from the person who routinely and unproblematically inhabits and moves through social space and time." (Morgan, D. (1998) ‘Sociological Imaginations and imagining sociologies: bodies, auto/biographies and other mysteries’ Sociology, 32(4): 647-63 (655))

That David should have had such a positive impact on the auto/biographies of so many others is no surprise to anyone who knew him.

The day before I heard he had died I was rereading one of David’s most recent publications – Snobbery (2019, Policy Press) – in which he, as ever, demonstrates his wide-ranging interests, his clever critique and engaging writing style. A presentation by David was always a treat, his humour often as evident as his theoretical insight, a new article or book a read to look forward too.

David was a warm and funny friend too. My first full time post (1994) was in Coventry and I was living in Newcastle-under-Lyme at the time and David and I shared many a morning coffee at Stoke station as I waited for a train to Birmingham and he waited for one to Manchester. Since then we have shared many a taxi and train carriage and had some lovely gossips, in addition to more serious discussions and debates at conferences and other BSA events. I am finding it difficult to imagine such encounters in the future without his calm, generous, knowledgeable presence.

My life, both intellectual and personal, has indeed been enriched by knowing David; a true giant of a man. I will miss him so much.


Professor Stevi Jackson, Centre for Women's Studies, University of York: David's death is a huge loss to sociology as a discipline and to the sociological community. His work, which has transformed the study of families and relationships, has been an inspiration for generations of sociologists,and for me personally. He was not only a major intellectual figure, but was also exceptionally kind, generous with his time and supportive of others.

Beccy Shipman, University of Leeds: I have heard the sad news about David Morgan. Such a great loss personally and professionally for so many people. What a legacy he leaves behind, both his own but the huge body of work he inspired and so much of that coming out of the Morgan Centre.

Helen Roberts FAcSS, Hon FFPH, Professor of Child Health Research, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health: David Morgan, was renaissance man, a good man, an amusing man.

At a time when there was barely enough room in the conference hall for the egos of male sociologists, he was not one to strut his considerable intellectual stuff. He took an entirely human and humane interest in everyone and everything. My memories are of David the feminist, the encourager, the nurturer – the chap who was ahead of his time in his thoughts on reflexivity, men and masculinity, the body, the family and the household.

Reversing the normal gender distribution of male and female contributors to edited collections at the time, he was the sole male contributor to Doing Feminist Research in the early 1980s, writing on the social relations of sociological production and reflecting back on his work on bishops, workers and Bloomsbury. Introducing the notion of academic machismo he wrote: ‘The symbolic leaders or academic folk heroes are sharp, quick on the draw, masters of the deadly put-down and form the subject of …. recollection in the staff clubs and senior common rooms.’ (Yes, different days, if not in terms of academic discourse, at least in terms of most university estates).

In the context of the Black Lives Matter, his words on male sociability are a reminder to those of us with white and or class privilege – men and women alike:

"Male homosociability can be seen as a mechanism of social and cultural reproduction. It is based on a collective control of resources and serves, among other things, to exclude newcomers and outsiders from gaining access to these resources…. (T)hese mechanisms need not be wholly recognised or deliberate and can operate through subtle closures and exclusions in everyday conversation and socialising as well as through a ‘men only’ sign on the door."

No men only sign on David’s door – his openness to new ideas, new people just starting out, and all round decency is an example to the rest of us.

Tributes from members of the BSA Auto/Biography Study Group

Our friend David Morgan

Aidan Seery and Karin Bacon: Karin and I were both saddened and moved at the news of David's death. We know him only from the Auto/Biography group but are aware of his enormous standing more generally in the world of UK sociology. However, I am sure that the most striking characteristics and dispositions that he showed in the group were equally evident in all of his academic life. He was a generous, kind and encouraging colleague and mentor. We remember him most recently in his custodianship of a section of the Palgrave Handbook to which we submitted a chapter. At every stage of drafting, editing and completion, he never harangued when we were late but sent his wonderful, gentlemanly reminders and coaxes. He was a man of deep humanity, gentleness and keen mind and insight. We will miss him greatly and the Autobiography group has lost a major figure. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Mike Thomas: I draw on David's invaluable work on family practices as part of the MA in Social Work at Brunel: this provides really important insights for our students about the complexities of family life and the rituals and practices through which families find meaning. I've also enjoyed reading David's recent book on snobbery- this will also be useful for our social work students in terms of exploring social norms and how they are understood and maintained within social work practice.

Chrissie Rogers: David was much loved by many, he was more than an academic mentor, he was a friend. He had no reason to approach me as a PhD student in the early 00s when I presented my work at the BSA annual conference. As a mother with a disabled daughter, the methods I chose were reflexive, personal and yet sociologically significant. He could see that and encouraged me to publish, which I did with his support. I was touched and amazed. I was a 'young' PhD student and knew no different. I did not know then, quite how special he was. We kept in touch, mainly via the A/B study group, and the BSA conference. But we also exchanged Christmas cards and had a lovely connection. As I moved through academic life, it became more evident that David was a real jewel as he selflessly supported his junior, and then not so junior, peers. He had an incredible warmth that spread within his networks and beyond. I will cherish our relationship and can only hope to have an ounce of his humility, generosity of spirit and quiet confidence.

Viv Martin: I was really saddened to hear of David's death. When I first met him, I had no idea of his eminence as I'm not a sociologist nor had written in this field for long; he wore his vast intelligence, knowledge and wisdom so lightly and was full of kindness and encouragement. Whenever he came to one of my presentations I greatly appreciated his genuine interest and gentle validation. A particularly fond memory is of travelling with him from Totnes following our AB conference at Dartington. Trains were delayed that day through heavy rain and it was a delight to share his companionship on the Totnes to Birmingham section, to talk about the conference and also the merits of an M&S prawn and scallop stir fry. A lovely man, full of insight and warmth.

Geraldine Brown: Very sad news about David, he was such an inspiration and will be missed.

Anne Chappell: I met David was when I attended my very first BSA Auto/Biography summer conference in 2010. I gave my first conference presentation with my colleague and David was the chair for the session. He was incredibly encouraging and supportive, and made us feel at our ease immediately. Over the years I was fortunate enough to have many conversations with David, both about Auto/Biography and Pinner, where I live and David lived when he was young. He was a wonderful academic – insightful, generous, supportive and kind – a role model for us all. I feel very lucky to have learned so much from him and benefited from his support and friendship. We will miss him very much.

Kathleen Hegarty: This is sad to hear. May he rest in peace. Although I did not know him well, he seemed to personify the absolute dedication and scholarship required for this vital area of study. He was generous enough to take the time to give me some really encouraging feedback after a little presentation one year. That will stay with me. Sincerest condolences to his dear family, Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Maria Tamboukou: I have met David Morgan several times and on different occasions. Two occasions remain most vividly in my mind : I had invited him to give a public lecture at UEL in the context of a social theory standing seminar I was convening at the time, as a young lecturer. After his full house lecture we went to a Chinese restaurant by the river. It was evening and the sun was setting and we stayed there chatting and eating and drinking, looking at the water. When some months later I invited Liz Stanley for a different event, she responded swiftly saying: ‘Of course I accept, David told me he had a wonderful time with you’. Last time we met personally, was in Barcelona at the Auto/Biography summer conference. What fun days were those. He came to my paper with Janet and we had such enlightening discussions after that. Thinking that we were co-editor sections at the recent Palgrave Auto/biography Handbook makes me both happy and sad. He was literally one of the kindest academics I have ever met and I was glad to have seen so early in my career that being a famous sociologist does not stop you from being genuinely kind, generous and tender. He will be greatly missed.

Froukje Pitstra: I didn’t know David for a very long time, but when in Dartington Hall (2017) we walked the old cemetery ground together and had such a pleasant talk. He was to me an example of how I wish people in academia would be: Excellent scholar, kind hearted, loving soul. The AB group, co-founded by David, has become a safe haven for people like this. It is a true blessing! I’m thankful to David for that.

I severely dislike groups, but I hold one exception, The Auto/ Biography study group - created by and for people like David Morgan: Excellent scholars with a kind heart and a warm soul. Not an easy combination and therefore one that is seldom found in the academic world. Thank you prof. David Morgan, for bringing the like-hearted, from all over the world, together. For sharing your human wisdom and sociological knowledge. Thank you for our walk & talk on the beautiful cemetery grounds of Dartington Hall. For showing me that magnificent 2000 year old Yew Tree. Everything and everyone under this sky may have its time, even you and even me, but that Yew Tree will remain.

Kitrina Douglas: I had the pleasure of sitting next to David at the last auto/biography conference I attended at Dartington, he was so complimentary about my songs and bought a CD. And I in turn loved his talk and learning a little about his life. A true and lovely gentle man.

Dr Julie M Parsons, Associate Professor in Sociology, University of Plymouth: I met David around 10 years ago through membership of the BSA Auto/Biography study group. My research was an auto/biographical study of relationships with food and as such I drew heavily on David’s work on families, notably that family practices are also food practices. David acted as external examiner for my PhD in 2014 and was an extremely kind, patient and generous examiner. I then asked him to act as a referee on an application for a Sociology of Health & Illness Foundation Mildred Blaxter Post-Doctoral Fellowship, which I was awarded in 2015. I shall always be grateful to David for the help and support he gave me over the years. His kindness, humour and generosity were boundless. His commitment to the BSA Auto/Biography study group was unwavering and he supported both new and established members alike. I recently co-edited the Palgrave Handbook of Auto/Biography  (Parsons & Chappell 2020), and David was a section editor and kindly contributed his thoughts on the origins of the group for the introduction to the book. He was a great sociologist, very kind, generous and a true gentle man. He shall be missed.


Eileen Green, Professor Emerita, University of Teesside: David was a very special person and an outstanding sociologist whose humility and generosity to his colleagues and students was phenomenal. I knew him mainly through his work for the BSA. He encouraged me as a young sociologist and supported me throughout my different roles for the BSA, latterly in my time as a trustee and Chair of the Association. I loved his work which showcased his deep attention to the nuances of everyday life, illustrated so aptly in his most recent work. He will be greatly missed for both his intellectual brilliance and his quiet humour and huge generosity.

Professor Kate Purcell, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick: I first met David in 1974 when I enrolled as a part-time MA student in the Sociology Department at Manchester, fresh out of my undergraduate degree in London, in my first graduate job as a Research Assistant at Manchester Poly-as-was (now Manchester Metropolitan university). He exuded kindness, gentleness and integrity in what I remember as being an interesting post-Max Glucksman department, still feeling like a ‘Sociology & Anthropology Department’ dominated by the Marxists (led by Peter Worsley and Teodor Shanin) on the one hand, and the Ethnomethodologists (led by Wes Sharrock) on the other - and there were many other equally strong-willed and clever rugged individualists around. David steered a diplomatic course among all of them, and it progressively became apparent that he was one of the main elements that held it all together. He became an important source of support and inspiration at many points in my life thereafter; most importantly as my PhD supervisor, where he went many extra miles beyond his responsibilities, to ensure that I overcame hurdles and completed my thesis successfully. I started it in 1976, at the height of second wave feminism, in the wake of the enactment of the Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination Acts and was preoccupied by persistent gender inequalities, but impressed by sparky NW women trade union activists in an area with a long history of married women’s employment. It was no accident that I chose factory-based participant observation as my methodology, following in David’s own footsteps, and I think no accident that of all the luminaries in that dynamic department, David was the one who was excited by the idea in helping me to explore ideas about feminism, power and gender, and supported my successful application for an SSRC studentship. Towards the end of my (...er, somewhat extended..) period as a PhD student, when I was balancing motherhood, part-time work and finishing my thesis, he enabled me to abandon my other responsibilities and stay at his place, feeding me and giving me a safe haven (...and inducting me into the delights of sharing your home with a cat). Without David’s encouragement and inspiration, I would never have finished my thesis and might never have become a cat owner either. What debts I owe him, intellectually and emotionally!

Sue Scott’s excellent obituary summarised David’s extraordinary prolific and varied productivity. He was ahead of the game (and his work still is) on masculinity and the implications of gender inequalities for men and for gender relations, and the paramount importance of social relations and sociability in explaining social structures and how communities work. Others will write about his inspirational scholarship and lateral thinking that made tutorials and a lifetime of conversations with him illuminating and fun, but when I think back on my memories of him, I think mostly of the extra-curricular fun: dancing with him at departmental discos and conferences in the early days, sharing meals throughout our lives, going for long walks in interesting places, having long talks about everything under the sun over a bottle of wine or two, and discussing and attending theatrical performances in Manchester and London. Wherever he was, there was friendship and laughter. One of the things I enjoyed so much about David was his droll sense of humour and capacity to see the funny side and make me laugh, sometimes in rather solemn situations (- like in conference plenaries). He could spot hypocrisy, cant and odd juxtapositions a mile away, and had great wit! I remember laughing out loud at a slightly tongue-in-cheek book review he did, citing without further comment that the author had described some intellectual advance or another as “seminal in every meaning of the word”. Like many who have already posted memories on this site, I was so accustomed to thinking that I could catch up with David at any time that it never occurred to me that he was not immortal. I am SO sad to think that he is no longer with us, but look forward to seeing you all at the magnificent memorial event that I am sure will be organised by the Centre when it is feasible to do so.

Darlane Andrade, Lecturer at the Federal University of Bahia – Brazil: I´d like to send you all my condolences for the lost of a great professor, David Morgan.

I would like to express how stunned by the news of Professor David’s death I am. I had the pleasure to meet Professor David, and many other phenomenal researchers, during the time I spent at Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives. I am especially grateful for having benefited from his groundbreaking contribution to the studies on families and intimacy.

I’ve got the chance to visit Morgan Centre twice, as a visiting scholar. The first time in 2011, while I was doing my Ph.D., and the second one in 2014, at the beginning of my academic career. On both occasions, I heard Vanessa May and other colleagues saying how hardworking, kind, and generous David was. I could see by myself how truly generous and genuinely interested in other people’s researches David was. As a visiting scholar, I was able to talk to him about my research. He was very kind and attentive. Moreover, David introduced me to other UK researchers on singleness (my study subject) and provided very useful suggestions on how to improve my research. What stood out for me, was David’s ability to make deep connections with people, see their potentials, and validate them.

Once, in a seminar, Professor David Morgan said he didn’t know why the research center had been named after him, while he was still alive. I, on the other hand, can’t think of anybody more deserving of such honor. David will always be among us, for his legacy is at work in the lives of those who had the chance of working with him and those who, like myself, look up to him as a mentor and role model. My condolences.

Sue Webb, Professor of Education (Research), Adjunct, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia: Whilst I have not had contact with David Morgan since the 1980s and my days as a research student at Manchester University, I will always remember his kindness and warmth. Without his support in the late 1970s, I would not have had an academic career. His curiosity in exploring the matters of everyday life and openness to diverse points of view, especially the arguments of feminists in the 1970s, were significant in enabling me to pursue a PhD. The context was that I had had a bruising experience of study in a well-regarded (at the time) political studies department of another university. David’s generosity in carefully reading my Master’s thesis and his recognition of the arguments I had developed were not only a boost to my battered confidence, but his support also resulted in the award of a second scholarship to study at the Department of Sociology, University of Manchester. There, the attention given to both the study of everyday practices and the exposure and respect given to different ways of understanding which David encapsulated in his ways of being a sociologist, were formative. Although the majority of my academic career has been played out in education departments and specifically in work related to adult and higher education, I could not have done this without David’s support to my faltering early research career. Looking forward, I hope that David’s generosity of being and interest in understanding the everyday will live on in all of those he inspired.


Dr Helen Cooke on behalf of Nantwich Museum: memories of David Morgan

David became a volunteer at Nantwich Museum soon after he and Janet moved to the town in 2011 and was an active contributor to many of our activities. The Museum staff and volunteers were so very sad to learn of his passing and are still struggling to come to terms with this.

David brought a tremendous wealth of experience and knowledge to the Museum’s endeavours. He was highly respected and universally popular with other volunteers and staff, being unpretentious, humble and respectful of all. He was consistently diplomatic, receptive to ideas and sensitive to others’ feelings.

One of his first contributions was as a member of the Museum’s Advocacy Group, formed to explore opportunities for philanthropic funding. He was also a member of our Research Group, which is primarily concerned with developing local history exhibitions and publications. David was happy to get involved with practical activities too, such as the installation of exhibitions.

I first met David when I joined the Research group in 2015. We were working on an exhibition about life in Nantwich during the Civil War, one aspect of which was the creation of four fictitious characters living in the town at the time. David was a source of inspiration while we developed their personalities and brought them to life for the exhibition’s visitors.

David at the official opening of the "Empowerment of Women: a Local Perspective" exhibition in 2018. From left: Councillor David Marren (Mayor of Nantwich at the time); Laura Smith (Crewe & Nantwich MP at the time); David; and Helen Cooke.

David also worked on most of our other recent exhibitions, including the 2014 First World War commemoration. Perhaps the most memorable for me was working with him on the 2018 exhibition celebrating the centenary of votes for women, entitled “Empowerment of Women: a Local Perspective”. He and Janet conceived the idea and outline for the exhibition, leading a small team of researchers who developed the content and sourced exhibits.

David also authored several local history booklets for the Museum, including one entitled “Religion in 18th Century Nantwich: Priestley, Wesley and Others” to accompany our 2019 exhibition on Joseph Priestley. He also improved the quality of other publications through editing and proofreading.

David’s subtle sense of humour endeared him to others. One of his last contributions was during the Covid-19 lockdown when he was a contributor to the Museum’s social media posts, including a very amusing spoof story he composed for April Fool’s Day which was extremely popular with the Museum’s Facebook followers.

David was one of my “go to” people for advice and words of wisdom. He is missed by so many of us and is truly irreplaceable. I think I can safely say that all at the Museum consider it an honour to have known him. His memory and many contributions to the Museum will live on.


Professor Emerita Susan Edwards, University of Buckingham, Barrister and Expert Witness: David was known, and is remembered, as a sociologist of the family. I shall remember him for his tutorship and friendship and especially for the way in which his intellectual interest in family life, in bonds, and in friendships was carried seamlessly through into his dedication and care of his students who also became part of his wider family. I can only speak of the graduate school of Sociology during the period 1974 to 1979 of which I was a part. A unique school where seminars were held at his home in Mauldeth Road Manchester in front of a log fire where students and staff, amongst them Teodor (Professor Teodor Shanin) Bryan ( Professor Bryan Roberts) and Peter (Professor Peter Worsley) listened to graduate students present their research work.

David and Susan Edwards on the day Susan was award her PhD, 1979.

I remember one of my early supervisions with David when Rosemary, his wife at that time, brought in a tray of tea with scones to assist our discussions. All his students were to feel and be part of the family of postgraduates to which Rosemary so contributed. The great leveller operated most naturally where any ivory tower approach to post graduate supervisions was an anathema. I fear that this is a world we have long lost. Davis supervised my Ph.D. on Rape Law after some earlier unsuccessful attempts to match my work and interest with other departmental tutors. This was no mean feat as research on rape was ground-breaking at that time and critiques of the law and gender not immediately the province of sociology. But David was never constrained by any imposed idea of ‘disciplines’ he always thought outside the box and outside convention and his interest in gender and law as an arm of the state and wide intellectual grounding provided me with the guidance I needed. So many of us benefitted from his nurturing at that time including Professor Peter Rushton (a family sociologist who sadly died in May this year 2020) Dr Alicia Equiluz, Dr Elfie Nunn, and Dr Iris Gillespie (who died in 2012 was also supervised by David and whose the thesis was on Wagner and Geist). These were just some of many divergent academic interests all of which David appreciated and understood. His patient reading, rereading, and encouragement was unmatched. David’s children, Jacqueline, and Julian, were a vibrant part of all our lives too at that time. I left Manchester for London in 1982 and later was happy to share a meal in London with David and Janet. I was later able to be part of the ground-breaking ‘Body Matters’ project David edited with Sue Scott (1993). To have been part of David’s academic family was to have been part of his wider family, with its indelible music and ethic, no public no private, no privileged and no ’other’, no limits no bounds, all were welcomed and all mattered. David always made a difference, modestly and self-effacingly in a quiet greatness.

From left: David, Iris Gillespie, Werner Pelz, and Susan Edwards, on the day of Iris' PhD viva in 1982.


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