A SCHOLAR who was able to take on any amount of work, and always remain unflustered, Peter Gosden – who has died aged 85 – was a leading educational historian, publishing extensively on the development of the education service in England and Wales.
In 1969 he was asked by the Social Science Research Council to produce a definitive history of education in the Second World War. It was to take the place of a similar project that had been planned by the Cabinet Office in the 1940s as part of the official History of the Second World War, but which had never been completed.
The selection of Professor Gosden followed an exhaustive trawl to identify the most suitable researcher to undertake what the Council itself acknowledged to be a formidable task.
He went on to spend a large part of the next four years working at the then Department of Education and Science on the relevant records. Education in the Second World War: A Study in Policy and Administration was published in 1976.
In addition to numerous articles in journals including the British Journal of Educational Studies, he wrote or co-authored a number of other books covering topics including the history of the education system from 1944 to the early 1980s and the history of the West Riding Education Authority.
Abolished in the local government reorganisation of 1974, the county authority was famous for having pioneered many important educational developments.
Professor Gosden went to Midhurst Grammar School in Sussex, and won an Open Exhibition to read History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1945.
Graduating in 1948, he stayed on to get his Post Graduate Certificate in Education, and followed that with two years of National Service as an Education Officer in the RAF.
Becoming a schoolmaster, he taught at Greenford County Grammar School in Ealing, and from 1955 to 1960 was head of the departments of history and religious knowledge at St Nicholas Grammar School, Northwood.
He amply fulfilled his early promise, the headmasters of both schools appreciating his all-round qualities as a teacher, which came with a calm, imperturbable temperament – a quality that never left him.
Although responsible for the two departments at St Nicholas, Professor Gosden enrolled as a part-time research student at Birkbeck College, London.
Awarded his PhD in 1959, Professor Gosden turned his thesis into a book The Friendly Societies in England, 1815-1875 (1961). Later in his career, he also published Self-Help: Voluntary Associations in Nineteenth-century Britain (1973).
In 1960, he moved into higher education with his appointment as a lecturer in the then Department of Education at Leeds University.
His work there help establish Leeds as a major centre for the study of educational policy and administration.
The Journal of Educational Administration and History which he and his colleague, Dr W B Stephens, established in 1968 won a high reputation both in this country and overseas.
Appointed to a Chair in the History of Education in 1979, he had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1968. In 1990 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
He was Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the university from 1985 to 1987, following that with a second term as chairman of the School of Education, which he remained until 1991.
Despite his many commitments at Leeds, Professor Gosden made significant contributions elsewhere, including the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers – serving on its governing body and as its academic secretary – and the Joint Matriculation Board, of which he was chairman from 1988 to 1992.
For more than two decades he was a member of the governing body of the then College of Ripon and York St John.
In retirement, which he took in 1992, Professor Gosden continued as the university archivist, and in 1993 became President of the History of Education Society.
Professor Gosden is survived by his wife, Sheila.