Professor Tom Devine, director of the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and author of almost 40 books including international best seller The Scottish Nation, will step down on 31 July.
Prof Devine, 68, whose teaching career spans 45 years at the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, said that with the extensive coverage of the independence referendum there had never been so much interest in Scottish history worldwide.
“It is definitely time for me to go. I did actually retire three years ago but the university brought me back for research and managerial reasons.
“It’s been tremendously exciting to be involved when the subject has come of age and has considerable dynamism. Scottish history can hold its head up.”
Prof Devine said he intended to keep promoting his subject and would also be writing about Scotland’s role in the slave trade.
“I intend giving public lectures as the amount of hunger out there in Scottish history is unbelievable. There is a generation in their 40s and above who never really had Scottish history at school, it is a profound educational deficit.
“I’ll also be writing about Scotland’s amnesia over slavery.”
Prof Devine is the only historian to have been awarded Scotland’s premier academic accolade, the Royal Medal by the Queen. He is also the only living scholar in the humanities and social sciences in the UK to have been elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Royal Irish Academy and the British Academy.
Edinburgh University will bid him farewell with “The Scotland’s Past and Scotland’s Present” ticketed free public event at the McEwan Hall on 16 June in which former prime minister Gordon Brown will join Prof Devine in conversation exploring Scotland’s history in the run-up to the September referendum.
Mr Brown, former student rector of the university, said: “I have enjoyed working with Tom and am delighted to be part of his send off. I look forward to celebrating his many achievements, reminiscing times gone by and perhaps bringing a few things up he would rather forget!”
The discussion will be chaired by broadcaster and journalist Jim Naughtie.