Claude Blair (30 Nov. 1922 – 21 Feb. 2010) historian of arms & armor; Keeper, Department of Metalwork, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1972–82; FSA 1956, OBE 1994, CVO 2005.
Following the start of the Second World War, Blair served as a Captain in the Royal Artillery, and, though a leg injury saw him invalided out of active service, he remained in the army and joined a team testing small firearms. After the war had ended he attended Manchester University where he graduated with a BA in History in 1950 and continued to complete an MA writing his dissertation on the silvered and engraved armour of Henry VIII.
In 1951 he started work as assistant to Sir James Mann at the Tower of London Armouries, where he stayed until 1956 when he joined the V&A as Assistant Keeper in the Metalwork section. He left the V&A on his retirement in 1982 by which time he was Keeper of Metalwork and one of the leading authorities on European Metalwork, in particular arms and armour. During the 1950s and 60s his Easter lectures were particularly popular, attendees young and old greatly enjoyed witnessing him fire real guns, brandish swords and demonstrating how mobile an armoured knight could be.
In retirement he continued to publish and research energetically, being active in numerous societies, notably the Arms and Armour Society, the Meyrick Society, the Church Monuments Society (which he helped found in 1979) and the Monumental Brass Society.
His scholarly output over the course of his career and retirement amounted to over 200 articles and 10 books which he either wrote, edited or co-edited. Notable works included ‘European Armour c. 1066 to c. 1700’ (1958) which is still considered the standard text on the subject and ‘European & American Arms, c. 1100 – 1852′ (1962). In the course of his work he set himself high standards and also applied them to others, being quick to correct any errors he spotted. He gave praise and encouragement alongside criticism and was saddened by the fact that many leading museums had abandoned scholarship and publication.
European Armour: Circa 1066 To Circa 1700 (1958; 1972)
European & American arms, c. 1100-1850 (1962; 2011)
The Silvered Armour of Henry VIII in th Tower of London (1965)
Pistols of the World (1968)
Pollard’s History of Firearms(1983)
Arms, Armour and Base-Metalwork (1985)
The Complete Encyclopedia Of Arms & Weapons (1986)
The History of Silver (1987; 2000)
Studies in European Arms and Armor: The C. Otto Von Kienbusch Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1991)