John Eastburn Boswell (1947-1994) graduated from William & Mary in 1969, received a Ph.D. in History from Harvard in 1975, and began his teaching career that same year at Yale, teaching there until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1994. A distinguished scholar and author, Boswell was also a gifted and committed teacher.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of John Boswell to the fields of medieval history and the history of sexuality. He may have accomplished more than any other scholar of his generation to bring to popular attention new ways of looking at writers and cultural trends "hidden in plain sight." His book Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, published in 1980, was a pioneering work in the history of sexuality; Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, published in 1994, is one of the most widely read and debated works of medieval history produced during the twentieth century.
His scholarly work included a commitment to using the study of the past to address the ills of the present. He wrote about people and ideas that had previously been written out of history, written out not because they had no history but because modern ideological and political concerns had made the study of, or even the acknowledgement of, those histories unacceptable.
Boswell's ability to inspire extended to all of his students. He was known for being a superb classroom teacher, one whose dynamic teaching was responsible for bringing many talented individuals into the study of history. One would like to think that John Boswell's commitment to teaching excellence reflects the influence of his years at William & Mary.