Fernand Braudel

(24 August 1902 – 27 November 1985)

Fernand Braudel was a French historian and one of the key contributors to the Annales School. His work charted the development of European capitalism over several centuries.

Braudel’s entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Braudel’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Sir Herbert Butterfield

(7 October 1900 – 20 July 1979)

Herbert Butterfield was born in Oxenhope, England and was educated the University of Cambridge, where he received his MA in 1926. Butterfield was a professor at Cambridge from 1928 until his death. He held the prestigious position of Regius Professor of Modern History there from 1963-8. In 1968, Butterfield received a knighthood in recognition for his historical accomplishments.

Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History, published early in his career in 1931, was his best-known work and, informed by his own conservative political views, was critical of the approach of some liberal historians who saw history as a straight-line narrative leading to the present liberal order. Butterfield’s interests extended widely: he also wrote about the development of modern science and – influenced by his devout Christian views – the history of Christianity.

Important Works:

  • The Whig Interpretation of History (1931)
  • The Englishman and His History (1944)
  • The Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800 (1949)
  • Christianity and History (1949)
  • Moral Judgments in History (1959)

William Camden

(2 May 1551 – 9 November 1623)

William Camden was an English historian and antiquarian who, through his access to the State Papers, wrote the first history of Elizabeth I’s reign. He also wrote a historical account of Britain and Ireland, in addition to surveying the topography of the islands.

Camden’s entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Camden’s Britannia, translated into English from the Latin, from 1610.

E.H. Carr

(28 June 1892 – 3 November 1982)

Edward Hallett Carr was born in London and studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a degree in Classics. Carr joined the British Foreign Office after his graduation in 1916. In this position, which he held for 20 years, Carr was able to see first-hand the end of the First World War, the emergence of the Soviet Union, and the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. Over this time, Carr became increasingly fascinated with Russian culture and was impressed by what he saw in his visits to the Soviet Union.

In 1936, Carr left the Foreign Office to take up a position at the University of Aberystwyth as a professor of international politics. During the Second World War, Carr was a commentator and encouraged accommodation with the Soviet Union. He left Aberystwyth in 1947 and had only a brief stint at Oxford from 1953-5; otherwise Carr’s softer views on the Soviet Union made him somewhat of a pariah. It was this interest in the Soviet Union that led Carr to conduct his research into its history, leading to the fourteen-volume, A History of Soviet Russia (1950-1978). Carr’s work made other scholars realise that the study of the Soviet Union was a legitimate pursuit. Carr’s other noted work, What is History? (1961), criticised recent trends in historiography: he disputed the supposed objectivity of historical facts, but also argued that history is deterministic and counterfactual history is a futile exercise.

Important Works:

  • The Twenty Years Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of Foreign Relations (1939)
  • A History of Soviet Russia (14 volumes) (1950-1978)
  • The New Society (1951)
  • What is History? (1961)
  • The Russian Revolution: From Lenin to Stalin (1917-1929) (1979)
  • From Napoleon to Stalin and Other Essays (1980)

Richard Cobb

(20 May 1917 – 15 January 1996)

Richard Cobb was a British historian who studied French history, particularly the French Revolution, emphasising ‘history from below’.

Cobb’s obituary in The Independent.

Cobb’s obituary in The New York Times.

R. G. Collingwood

(22 February 1889 – 9 January 1943)

Robin George Collingwood was an English historian and philosopher noted for his 1946 work, The Idea of History, in which he presented his idealist philosophy of history.

Collingwood’s entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Collingwood’s entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Jacques Derrida

(15 July 1930 – 9 October 2004)

Jacques Derrida was a French postmodernist philosopher, best known for his linguistic theory of ‘deconstruction.’

An entry on Derrida in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Derrida’s biography at the European Graduate School.

Derrida’s obituary in The Guardian.

Sir Geoffrey Elton

(17 August 1921 – 3 December 1994)

Sir Geoffrey Elton was a German-born historian who focused on the constitutional and political history of Britain, especially the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Elton’s obituary in The Independent.

Elton’s obituary in the journal, Chronicon.

A personal reminiscence from a student of Elton’s.

V. H. Galbraith

(15 December 1889 – 25 November 1976)

Vivian Hunter Galbraith was an English historian who studied mediaeval English history.

Information from the Institute for Historical Research.

Catherine Hall

(18 February 1946 –)

Catherine Hall is a British historian whose work blurs the distinction between metropole and colony in the British Empire. She also studies gender history.

An article on Britain’s intimate relationship with slavery.

A description of Catherine Hall’s interview, held at the British Library.

Christopher Hill

(6 February 1912 – 23 February 2003)

John Edward Christopher Hill was an English historian in the Marxist tradition. His work focused on seventeenth-century England, particularly applying a Marxist analysis to the English Revolution.

Hill’s obituary in The Guardian.

Hill’s obituary in The Telegraph.

Hill’s obituary in The Socialist Review.

Peter Laslett

(18 December 1915 – 8 November 2001)

Peter Laslett was an English historian who studied the history of political theory and, later, historical demography and the history of the family.

Laslett’s obituary in The Guardian.

Laslett’s obituary in The Telegraph.

J. H. Plumb

(20 August 1911 – 21 October 2001)

J.H. Plumb was a British historian who wrote works mainly on the social history of eighteenth-century Britain, both for an academic audience and for the general public.
Plumb’s obituary in The Guardian.
Plumb’s obituary in The Independent.
Plumb’s obituary in The Telegraph.

Edward Said

(1 November 1935 – 25 September 2003)

Edward Said was a Palestinian American literary theorist. His most famous work, Orientalism, analysed Western perceptions of the Middle East.

Said’s entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

A list of resources about Said from the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University.

Said’s obituary in The Guardian.

Said’s obituary in The New York Times.

Raphael Samuel

(26 December 1934 – 9 December 1996)

Raphael Elkin Samuel was born in London to a Jewish family. As a teenager, Samuel joined the Communist Party (but left the party in 1856 over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary). He studied history at Balliol College, Oxford University, where he was involved in the Communist Party Historians’ Group, which included a number of prominent Marxist historians. In 1962, he became a tutor at Ruskin College, Oxford University, and taught there until his death in 1996. He established the East London History Centre (since renamed the Raphael Samuel Centre) at the University of East London in 1995.

Samuel was keenly interested in social history and in 1967 established the History Workshop movement at Ruskin that emphasised ‘history from below’ and a democratic approach to history which flouted academic distinctions and encouraged collaboration between professional and amateur historians. He also played an important role in launching the History Workshop Journal in 1975. Samuel’s historical work focused on the experience of working people in Britain and left-wing politics.

Important works:

  • Village Life and Labour (1975)
  • Theatres of Memory, Volume 1: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture (1994)
  • Island Stories: Unravelling Britain: Theatres of Memory, Volume 2 (1998)
  • The Lost World of British Communism (2006)

E.P. Thompson

(3 February 1924 – 28 August 1993)

Edward Palmer Thompson was born in Oxford and, leaving school early in 1941, enlisted to fight in the Second World War, serving in the Italian campaign. After the war, Thompson went to study at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where – as a member of the Communist Party – he would form the Communist Party Historians; Group, which included other important historians like Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm. The group would launch the influential journal, Past and Present, in 1952. Like many other communists, Thompson broke with the party over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956.

Thompson’s most important contribution, The Making of the English Working Class, was published in 1963. In this work, Thompson sought to uncover voices previously overlooked by historians. He examined the English working class from 1780 to 1832 and investigated their development of a class-consciousness. Far from a deterministic process, Thompson emphasised the agency of individuals in shaping this consciousness. Thompson taught at Warwick University until 1971, when he broke with the university for what he saw as the commercialisation of higher education. He worked mainly as a freelance writer from that time and was also at the forefront of the peace movement and the campaign for nuclear disarmament in Britain.

Important Works:

  • William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary (1955)
  • The Making of the English Working Class (1963)
  • Writing by Candlelight (1980)
  • Double Exposure (1985)
  • Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law (1993)

Hugh Trevor-Roper

(15 January 1914 – 26 January 2003)

Hugh Trevor-Roper was an English historian who studied early modern Britain and Nazi Germany.

Trevor-Roper’s obituary in The Telegraph.

Trevor-Roper’s obituary on the BBC website.

Trevor-Roper’s obituary in The Guardian.

C. V. Wedgwood

(20 July 1910 – 9 March 1997)

Veronica Wedgwood was an English historian best known for her biographies and narrative histories about sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe.

Wedgwood’s entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Wedgwood’s obituary in The Economist.

Wedgwood’s obituary in The Independent.

Theodore Zeldin

(22 August 1933 –)

Theodore Zeldin is an English historian and thinker whose unorthodox work has examined the history of emotions and everyday life.

A brief biography of Zeldin.

A BBC interview with Zeldin.

Natalie Zemon Davis

(8 November 1928 –)

Natalie Zemon Davis was born in Detroit, Michigan. She studied at Harvard University and the University of Michigan, where she received her doctorate. In the 1950s, Davis and her husband both encountered difficulties because of their left-wing political activities, both having their passports confiscated for a time. Davis has taught at Brown University, University of California Berkeley, Princeton University, and currently is a professor at the University of Toronto.

Davis incorporated the techniques of various disciplines, including anthropology and literary theory, into her works on social and cultural history, often using new ways to highlight marginalised voices. Her best-known work, The Return of Martin Guerre (1983), came out of her experience working as a historical consultant on a French film of the same name in 1982 and examined a case of identity theft in a sixteenth-century French village as a window into wider conceptions of personal identity. For her innovative work, Davis has received numerous awards including the National Humanities Medal, awarded in 2012 by President Barack Obama, and she became a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2010.

Important Works:

  • Society and Culture in Early Modern France (1975)
  • The Return of Martin Guerre (1983)
  • Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (1987)
  • Women on the Margins: Three Seventh-Century Lives (1995)
  • Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision (2002)
  • Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim between Worlds (2006)