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Emeritus Professor Sir John Marsh, CBE (1931-2017)

Sir John Marsh

Sir John Marsh, CBE


5/10/1931 – 30/9/2017



The son of a Methodist Minister, John Marsh was brought up and schooled in the West Midlands.  He spent his National Service in the RAF where he found that he was the only person on his station capable of playing the National Anthem on the piano and was, therefore, called to do so on the death of King George VI!  The RAF taught him to touch-type so he was an ‘early adopter’ of computer-based word processing. 

He completed his first degree at St John’s College, Oxford (PPE) in 1955 before moving to the University of Reading to take the Diploma in Agricultural Economics in 1955-56.  He then became, successively, Research Economist (1956-64), Lecturer (1964-70), Reader (1970-76) before moving to the University of Aberdeen in 1977 where he was Professor of Agricultural Economics and Chairman of the Economics Group of the North of Scotland College of Agriculture.  In 1984, he returned to Reading to an established Chair in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Management which he then headed for seven years.  He was Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Food, 1986-89, and then Director of the Centre for Agricultural Strategy, 1990-97, before retiring.

John was a loyal member of the AES for many years, serving as its Honorary Secretary from 1969-84 and its President for 1985-86.  He was a member of numerous industry bodies including: the Potato Marketing Board; the Food and Drink Manufacturing Economic Development Committee of the National Economic Development Office; and the BBC Advisory Board for Rural and Agricultural Affairs.  He was the Chairman of the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales from 1991-1997 which led to the award of the CBE in 1993. He was a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society of England and Wales, a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies, a special Advisor to the House of Lords Sub-Committee of the European Union, and a Fellow of the Society of Biology.  He was knighted in 1999 for his contributions to agricultural education.

John’s interest in agricultural economics was stimulated at Oxford by listening to the legendary Colin Clark, the Director of Oxford’s Agricultural Economics Research Institute.  Shortly after his appointment at Reading, the Treaty of Rome was signed so, not surprisingly, the CAP became one of his long-standing interests.  From then, until well into ‘retirement’, John operated as an agricultural and food policy specialist with an enviable ability to analyse and explain complex systems and political processes to a wide range of audiences.  Few others, from the agricultural economics profession, have also been as adept as John in summarising and synthesising the discussions of meetings and conferences at the end of such events, and in identifying the key questions that needed to be addressed.

John was a dedicated church man, an accomplished and frequent preacher, and a keen and prolific photographer who loved caravanning with his family, especially in France.  He will be much-missed by many, but he has provided a fine body of work upon which the next generation of agricultural economists can build on to improve public agricultural policy, especially at this crucial time for both the UK and the EU.

Richard Tranter


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