Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Liam Smith (died aged 91)

A full obituary, which appeared in The Guardian, can be found here.

Liam was born in Coleraine in Northern Ireland, the son of Herbert, a solicitor, and Jean (née McSheffrey). After Queen’s University Belfast, Liam served as a radio operator in the Royal Navy at the end of the Second World War.

He was fluent in languages that gave him another identity – Portuguese and Italian, but above all, French.

His first academic post was at the University of Singapore, where he spent three years before returning to the UK and teaching in Clapham, South London. He then took up a lectureship in history at Goldsmiths, University of London, in 1962, a post he held, apart from a short spell at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris (1979-80), until his retirement in 1985, by which time he was head of the department.

Liam was a historian who powerfully revised accounts of the French second empire (1852-70) and its emperor, Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.

He published studies of Napoleon III in English in 1973 and a completely new version for Hachette in 1983, which he wrote in French. This was followed by a French biography of the Empress Eugénie in 1989, which won the Prix Napoléon, and a final study of the Bonaparte family in 2005.

Outside work, Liam gave much time to helping with the preservation of Saint Michael’s Abbey in Farnborough, Hampshire. He was also an informal adviser to the Bonaparte family, and was in regular contact with Alix, Princesse Napoléon, wife of the long-time pretender to the French throne, Louis, Prince Napoléon. In France Liam was made officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2001.  

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