Michael Altschul (1936-2010)
James Friguglietti, January 2011
Historian of medieval England
After a lengthy battle with cancer, Michael Altschul, professor of history emeritus at Case Western Reserve University, died in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 8, 2010. He was 73.
Born in Brooklyn on September 29, 1936, he was educated at New York University, where he received his AB in 1957. He did his graduate work at Johns Hopkins University, receiving his doctorate in 1962. Altschul’s dissertation, “The Clare Family, 1263–1314,” was written under the direction first of the distinguished medievalist Sidney Painter, and then after Painter’s death in 1960, John W. Baldwin. It was based on research conducted in Britain at the Public Record Office, Department of Manuscripts of the British Museum, and Institute of Historical Research at London University in 1960–61. His work was considered original enough that three chapters were incorporated into volume three of Glamorgan County History, Vol III., The Middle Ages (1971) edited by T.B. Pugh.
Altschul’s thesis itself was published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in 1965 under the title A Baronial Family in Medieval England: The Clares, 1217–1314. Reviewing it in the April 1967 issue of Speculum, Donald W. Sutherland styled it “a valuable book” and “fascinating and soundly researched.” In 1969 Cambridge University Press published Altschul’s Anglo-Norman England, 1066–1154, an extensive and detailed bibliography of that important period.
Between 1962 and 1967, Altschul taught at the University of Michigan, rising from instructor to assistant professor. He then moved to Case Western Reserve University, becoming full professor in 1977 and remaining there until his retirement.
Altschul was an active member of the Medieval Academy of America and the Renaissance Society of America. His work led to his election as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Altschul’s wry wit and sense of humor won him the affection of his numerous students as well as helped to enliven many history department meetings. He is survived by two daughters and two grandchildren.
Montana State University-Billings (emeritus)