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John W. Baldwin, an internationally renowned Johns Hopkins University history professor and author whose specialty was medieval France, died of pneumonia Sunday at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was 85.

"He was an expert on the French monarchy, and no one knew more than he did," said Gabrielle M. Spiegel, a former student of Dr. Baldwin's at Hopkins, where she now teaches medieval French history.

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"He was one of the most distinguished people in the world when it came to French history," said Dr. Spiegel, who lives in Roland Park.

Another close colleague and friend was Dr. Orest Ranum, who taught French history at Hopkins from 1969 until retiring in 2001.

"He was a very learned academic and not a pedantic scholar. He lived a full life in the 20th and 21st centuries and refracted those concerns in his research," said Dr. Ranum, also a Roland Park resident. "His primary work was 13th- and 14th-century France, which included a history of thought, institutions, kingship and even attitudes toward sex," he said.

The son of Edward N. Baldwin, a Westinghouse Electric Corp. electrical engineer, and H. Gladys McDaniel Baldwin, a homemaker, John Wesley Baldwin was born in Chicago and, due to the nature of his father's work during World War II, was raised in New Jersey and Maryland.

After graduating in 1946 from Catonsville High School, Dr. Baldwin earned a bachelor's degree in 1950 from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. He earned a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his doctorate from Hopkins.

He was the recipient of Guggenheim, Howard, Fulbright and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships and a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies.

Dr. Baldwin began his academic career teaching at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He returned to Homewood in 1961 when he was named an associate professor of history; five years later he was promoted to full professor.

From 1986 until 2001 when he retired, Dr. Baldwin was the Charles Homer Haskins professor of history.

Dr. Baldwin wrote 10 books on medieval French history.

"His work covered a wide array of 13th- and 14th-century French history: its political ideology, the structure of government, the educational system, aristocratic courtiers' lives, and even how sex figured in French medieval life," said a son, Peter M. Baldwin of New York City.

Dr. Baldwin was honored in France with the rank of chevalier in the Legion of Honor, the highest award bestowed by the French government, as well as membership in the Institut de France and the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. In the United States, he served as president of the American Philosophical Society.

"The Legion of Honor, created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, rarely goes to academics," said Stephen Nichols, chairman of Hopkins' department of Romance languages. "When it does, it's bestowed only on the most prestigious professors in France," reported The Baltimore Sun when Dr. Baldwin was presented the award in 2002.

Dr. Baldwin had a passion for "all things French," his son said.

"As a teacher, he was very demanding and he made you work hard, but he recognized and appreciated good work. He was a very serious and committed person, and the students responded to that," recalled Dr. Spiegel, "John cared a great deal about his relationships and had a huge circle of friends here and in Paris."

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"He knew what he thought about things and there was very little ambiguity in John Wesley Baldwin," said Dr. Ranum. "He thought out things, both big and small, and stood firmly on his principles."

Dr. Robert Forster and Dr. Baldwin went to high school and graduate school together and later were reunited when both joined the Hopkins faculty.

"John was one of the most disciplined historians I've ever known. He was very thorough and thoughtful in his work, and broadly gauged. His breadth really impressed me," said Dr. Forster, who also taught French history before retiring from Hopkins in 1996.

"He was a great friend and colleague, and every Thursday afternoon we'd meet for a glass of wine and would talk over things. I remember when he was writing the book on [King] Philip Augustus, he'd discuss it chapter by chapter," said Dr. Forster of Hunt Valley, who added that the book made the French best-seller list.

Some of Dr. Baldwin's books included "Medieval Theories of the Just Price: Romanists, Canonists, and Theologians in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries," "Scholastic Culture of the Middle Ages," "City on the Seine: Paris Under Louis IX," "The Language of Sex: Five Voices from Northern France around 1200" and "The Government of Philip Augustus: Foundation of French Royal Power in the Middle Ages."

In 2006, he published a summation of his work in French, titled "Paris 1200." An English edition was published in 2010.

Dr. Baldwin, who lived in Roland Park and Paris, had summered for 40 years on Gotts Island, Maine.

His wife of 60 years, Jenny M. Jochens, who is an emeritus professor of medieval history at Towson University, said her husband's primary hobby was "working."

"He liked caring for our home," said Ms. Jochens.

A memorial service for Dr. Baldwin will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Johns Hopkins Club, 3400 N. Charles St.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Baldwin is survived by two other sons, Ian T. Baldwin of Jena, Germany, and Christopher Baldwin of Boston; and seven grandchildren. His ashes will be buried next to his daughter, Birgit Baldwin, who died in 1988 and is buried on Gotts Island.

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