John L Halstead (1936-2021)

John Halstead, who has died aged 85, was among the earliest members of the Society for the Study of Labour History, and over a period of six decades occupied nearly every post within the Society, contributing his time and expertise unstintingly to serve as editor, chair, secretary and latterly vice-president.

John Halstead (1936-2021)

Born in Huddersfield, and educated at Highburton Church of England elementary school and Penistone Grammar School, John wrote local news stories for the West Yorkshire Advertiser while still at school. He joined the civil service, working in government for a decade, during which time he also graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in economics and politics. He subsequently joined the University of Sheffield extramural department, where he taught courses to industrial workers. He retired in 1996.

John wrote early and often for the Society’s publications. His first named appearance in the pages of the SSLH Bulletin was as a reviewer of John Vincent’s Pollbooks: How Victorians Voted in 1968. It would be the first of many. Indeed, he continued to edit the SSLH website’s Notes & Queries section until earlier this year.

His main research interests, however, were in the nineteenth-century radical history of the Huddersfield area, and he was a founder and active member for many years of the Huddersfield Local History Society.  John wrote widely on adult education and historical topics. Publications included The Voice of the West Riding: Promoters and Supporters of a Provincial Unstamped Newspaper, 1833-34, and The Local Tradition of Working-Class and Self-Help Education for a volume marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the opening of Northern College. To mark our golden jubilee in 2010, he also wrote about the history of the Society for the Study of Labour History – much of which he had experienced at first hand.

Among his many formal contributions to the life of the Society, John served as treasurer from 1969, as chair from 2001, as secretary from 2004, and as vice-president, a role he occupied until his death. His most remarkable contribution, however, must surely be his time as editor of the SSLH Bulletin and its successor Labour History Review over a period of twenty-three years from 1971 to 1994. Informally, John was a friend and mentor to many in the Society, and his knowledge and wisdom were apparently endless.

John Halstead’s funeral was held on Thursday 18 November 2021, at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium, Sheffield. A full obituary will follow in due course.