Sir Leslie Fielding


Formerly Vice-Chancellor, University of Sussex.

After army service, Leslie Fielding came up from Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet, in 1953, to read Economics (but switched to History and dabbled in Theology). On graduation in 1956, he took second place in the open competition for entry to the Diplomatic Service.

This was not to be a farewell to academia. Sir Leslie subsequently studied Persian at the School of Oriental and African Studies; was a Visiting Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford (when he married a medieval history don at St Hilda’s); and eventually became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex (1987-92). He chaired the Geography Working Group for the National Curriculum in Schools and served for ten years as Honorary President of the University Association for Contemporary European Studies.

In the Diplomatic Service, Leslie Fielding spent seven years in the Foreign Office in London (on the West European Desk and in the ‘Think Tank’), as well as serving political assignments in overseas embassies in Tehran, Singapore, Phnom Penh and Paris. He joined the External Relations Directorate-General in the European Commission in Brussels in 1973, as the Director with special responsibility for Europe’s relations with the US and the Common wealth. He subsequently became EC Ambassador in Tokyo, returning to Brussels as Director-General (1982-1987).

After leaving the Commission, he was for some years a non-executive director of IBM (Europe) and a Special Adviser to Panasonic (Europe).

Leslie Fielding’s book “Before the Killing Fields: Witness to Cambodia and the Vietnam War”, with a preface by Chris Patten, will be launched in November, 2007. He had previously contributed to two anthologies of travel stories. He is now at work on a book about the European Commission.

Sir Leslie was knighted on leaving the Commission. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the College in 1990. He has been a Lay Reader in the Church of England for thirty years, in Exeter, Tokyo, Gibraltar, Chichester and Hereford Dioceses – serving also on the General Synod. He was made a ‘Reader Emeritus’ in Hereford Diocese in 2007. He now very much approves of women priests, despite initial scepticism.

The Fieldings have two children and are based on a farm in the Welsh Marches. Their daughter, Emma, graduated in English from St Andrews University and is in business. She married an investment banker in July 2007. Their son Leo, a former Scholar at Shrewsbury, took a very good First in Spanish and French at Merton College, Oxford in 2007. He will now study law for two years in London, before joining Freshfields as a trainee.