C. Anne Wilson

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 8 January 2023, of C. Anne Wilson, formerly of the Brotherton Library and founder of the Leeds Symposium on Food History and Traditions.

Anne Wilson, who has died aged 95, was an Assistant Librarian in the Brotherton Library from 1961 until her retirement in 1992. A Cambridge classics graduate with a London postgraduate diploma in archaeology of the Iron Age and the Roman provinces, she served as subject librarian for classics, archaeology, and ancient history, to which she subsequently added art and music. In the mid-1960s, as an additional task, she undertook the cataloguing of the John Preston collection of historic cookery books (a recent gift to the Library), which led to her developing an intense interest in food history, including its social aspects.

One result was the publication in 1973 of her ground-breaking book, ‘Food and Drink in Britain from the Stone Age to Recent Times’, which Penguin Books went on to publish in paperback form. As well as enjoying popular success (leading, among other things, to an interview in the young women’s magazine Honey), it played a significant part in stimulating academic study of what had been a neglected subject, and an American edition appeared in 1991. Other books followed, including ‘A Book of Fruits and Flowers’ (a facsimile edition, 1984), ‘The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History, and Its Role in the World Today’ (1985), and ‘Water of Life: A History of Wine-Distilling and Spirits from 500 BC to AD 2000’ (2006).

In 1986 she founded the Leeds Symposium on Food History and Traditions with like-minded colleagues, an annual one-day conference inspired in part by the success of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. For many years she ran the Leeds Symposium almost single-handed, in addition to editing many of its proceedings for publication. The symposium built up a loyal following from across Britain and beyond, and, although now held in York, continues to this day under the same name.

Anne’s funeral will be held on Wednesday 8 February 203 at 1.45pm at Lawnswood Crematorium, Leeds Road, Adel, with refreshments afterwards at the Weetwood Hall Hotel. In Anne’s memory the flag on the Parkinson Building will fly at half-mast on the day of the funeral.

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