Malcolm Todd (1939-2013) was a leading historian and archaeologist of the Roman empire, who led several significant excavations in the West Country and the Midlands.

He came from a mining and farming community in Durham.  He was born to Wilfrid and Rose Evelyn Todd on 27 November 1939.  He attended a grammar school in Hartlepool.  As his father had insisted his son should not follow him down the mines, Todd studied classics at St David’s College, Lampeter. He graduated in 1960, and went on to take a diploma in classical archaeology at Brasenose College, Oxford.  As he was interested in the Rhine provinces of the German empire, he moved to Bonn to become a research assistant at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum.  In 1964, he married Molly Tanner; the couple had a son and a daughter. 

Todd joined the University of Nottingham as a lecturer in 1965; eventually he became senior lecturer and reader. He excavated Ancaster, East Bridgford (Margidunum) and medieval Newark.  Then, in 1979, Todd was appointed professor of archaeology at the University of Exeter; (although archaeology had been taught there for some time, he was its first professor).  His main fieldwork was associated with this time.  He discovered previously unrecognized Roman occupation in the Iron Age hillfort at Hembury, and identified two superimposed Roman sites at Bury Barton. 

Todd returned to the north-east in 1996; he became Principal of Trevelyan College, one of the colleges of Durham University, with a half-time post in the Department of Archaeology.  He had strong ideas about the importance of colleges within the university and was determined to see Trevelyan develop and maintain a high profile.  A mission statement and development plan were created, resulting in a number of innovations.  However, these years were less successful than Todd might have hoped.  He struggled to cope with technology and his approach to teaching was traditional at a time when higher education was changing rapidly. After Todd’s death, Brewer commented in Britannia that he wrote in the traditional way, with all communications conducted by letter rather than electronically!  Todd took early retirement in 2000, and moved back to Exeter, where he had always kept a house.   

Todd’s research focus was on the interaction between the Roman empire and western Europe; he had specialist interests in the archaeology of the later Roman empire and the Migration Period; urbanism in early Europe, and relations between the Roman empire and the contemporary barbarian world. In Britain, he was perhaps best known as an authority on the Germanic tribes on the borders of the Roman empire. He also published work on the walls of Rome, Roman coinage, towns and cities in Roman Britain, and on the southwest of England in the Roman and early medieval periods.   

Todd wrote 18 books, as well as numerous articles.  His volumes included The Barbarians: Goths, Franks and Vandals (1972), The Early Germans (1992) and Migrants & Invaders: the Movement of Peoples in the Ancient World (2001).  In retirement he edited Companion to Roman Britain (2004).  He edited the journal Britannia from 1984 to 1989; also in 1984 he was appointed as a vice-president of the Roman Society.  He served on the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England) from 1986 to 1992, on the Council of the National Trust from 1987 to 1991, and as archaeological consultant to Durham Cathedral from 1996 to 2000.   

Todd died of a heart attack on 6 June 2013, aged 73. 


Brewer, R.J. (2013). Editorial. Britannia. 44, vii-viii. Retrieved from 

Professor Malcolm Todd. (2013, July 18). Times, p. 48. Retrieved from 

Todd, Prof. Malcolm, (27 Nov. 1939–6 June 2013), Principal, Trevelyan College, Durham, 1996–2000. Who's who & Who was who. Retrieved 5 Jun. 2020, from