skip to content


Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


In Memoriam: Dr. Geoffrey Walker (1936 - 2023)

Dr Geoffrey Walker

The Spanish & Portuguese Section is sad to share the news of the passing of Dr. Geoffrey Walker, a former colleague who will be missed enormously. The following memorial was written by Professor Steven Boldy.


Dr Geoffrey Walker (Liverpool 1936 – Cambridge 2023)

Geoffrey Walker died on 22 August, just a year after his beloved wife Ana.  They were inseparable for over sixty years. Geoffrey was a much loved and respected member of the Department from 1962 to 1997 as a talented teacher and kind and loyal colleague.  He was a key figure in Catalan Studies in Britain, Spain and beyond, a distinguished historian of Spanish colonial trade and politics, and a skilled and indefatigable college, faculty and departmental administrator. He succeeded Josep Maria Batista i Roca, the eminent Catalan politician and academic, as the second teacher of Catalan culture in the Department and oversaw his important benefaction to Fitzwilliam College. He headed the newly constituted Department of Spanish and Portuguese with skill and tact through challenging times in the early nineties.  A superb linguist, with flawless Spanish and Catalan, he was utterly alien to any form of pretentiousness, pedantry or immodesty. A vivacious raconteur, he enthralled a generation of Part I students with his unforgettable anecdotes and insights in ‘Spain and the Spaniards’. Many went on to do his popular papers in Catalan Culture and Spanish American history.

After his BA in Spanish and French at the then Fitzwilliam House, his PhD, supervised by Jack Street, was published in English as Spanish Politics and Imperial Trade 1700-1789, now a standard text in scholarship in English and Spanish.  Beyond Geoffrey’s extensive writing on Catalan history, poetry and musicology, his role as cultural ambassador and promotor was remarkable.  He was a founding member of the principal international association of Catalan culture, the AILLC. For many years he headed the Anglo-Catalan Society, growing its prestige to the point that it was recognized by both the Ramón Llull International Prize and the Creu de Sant Jordi.  Geoffrey himself was awarded the latter honour in 1989, when he was invited to give the annual lecture of the Catalan National Day, the Diada. Geoffrey’s extraordinary diplomacy was again in play in his organization on behalf of Fitzwilliam, the University and the Spanish Government of the conferring of honorary degrees and fellowships on King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía.  For this he was made a Comendador de la Orden de Isabel la Católica.

Geoffrey’s delivery of speeches was unparalleled for poise and sheer enjoyment.  Many will vividly remember the one he gave at Corpus on the retirement of Melveena McKendrick.  His flawlessly honed spontaneity and a comic wit native to that blessed corner of England he hailed from were tempered by discretion, kindness and subtle observation.

In his last few years Geoffrey and Anna’s wellbeing was selflessly overseen by Coral Neale together with John Latham. Those of us who were privileged to enjoy Geoffrey Walker’s wise guidance, equanimity, magnanimity and faithful friendship will be for ever in his debt.