Obituary: Sir Leslie Fielding

The UACES Network |

Sir Leslie Fielding, 1932-2021

Sir Leslie Fielding in 2011.
Source of photo: University of Sussex, Broadcast: News items, Obituary: Sir Leslie Fielding, By Sean Armstrong

We regret to announce the death of Sir Leslie Fielding on 4 March 2021, who was Honorary President of UACES between 1990-96.  Leslie was a larger than life figure – extrovert, engaging and energetic.  There were at least three sides to his career – the public official, the academic, and involvement in the Church of England.  These three roles were woven in and out of a career which always had a strong component of European engagement.  At the outset he hesitated between taking holy orders and entering the civil service.  He opted for the latter and joined the Foreign Office in 1956, with a range of posts to follow both at home and abroad – Iran, Cambodia, Paris, in all of which his mix of acumen and linguistic skills combined with a talent for exuberance.  He was among the first British officials to join the European Commission in 1973 where he worked for some 14 years, partly as a senior official in the Directorate-General for External Relations and partly as head of the Delegation in Japan. He was thus one of a cohort of talented officials from the UK who made their mark on the European Community as it then was.

However, Leslie had always had something of a yen for a more intellectual involvement, partly reinforced by a period of working in the then Planning Staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  He took time out from his service in the European Commission in 1977-8 for a stint at St Antony’s College, Oxford.  Indeed it was while he was there that he met and married Sally Harvey, a medieval historian, who reinforced his yearning for a life in academe. The opportunity came a decade later when he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex.  It was not always a harmonious partnership, Leslie bringing a reformist agenda in tune with the Thatcherite times to an institution inspired by its founding period in 1961 with an innovative academic agenda and a student population inclined towards left-wing radicalism. Leslie brought his deep interest in European integration to the work of the University by reviving an interdisciplinary research and teaching centre focused on European affairs.  He won funding for a building extension and the agreement of his colleagues to establish what became the Sussex European Institute. I declare an interest and deep gratitude, since I had the luck to be appointed its first Director. Leslie, however, retired early in 1992, partly to look after Sally in her ill health and their two young children. In retirement, Leslie was able to spend time as a lay reader in the Church and to put pen to paper in writing eight books covering his memoirs and experiences. He kept in touch with European studies partly by serving as a British member of the High Council of the European University Institute in Florence. He was absolutely delighted to be asked to serve as Honorary President of UACES.

Professor Dame Helen Wallace

Currently Honorary President of UACES