Peter Hennessy
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Peter John Hennessy, Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield, (born 28 March 1947) is an English historian and academic specialising in the history of government. Since 1992, he has been Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary University of London.


Early life

Hennessy was born in Edmonton, north London, the youngest child of William G. Hennessy by his marriage to Edith (Wood-Johnson) Hennessy. He comes from a large
Catholic The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptized Baptism (from grc-x-koine, βάπτισμα, váptisma) is a form of ritual purification—a character ...
family of Irish provenance. He was brought up in large houses, requisitioned by the council, first in Allandale Avenue and then in Lyndhurst Gardens, Finchley, north London. He attended the nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, and on Sundays he went to St Mary Magdalene Church, where he was an altar boy. He was a subject of the first episode of the
BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 4 is a British national radio station owned and operated by the BBC that replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. It broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history from the BBC ...
series '' The House I Grew Up In'', first broadcast on 6 August 2007, in which he talked about his childhood. Hennessy was educated at St Benedict's School, an independent school in
Ealing Ealing () is a district in West London, England, west of Charing Cross in the London Borough of Ealing. Ealing is the administrative centre of the borough and is identified as a major metropolitan centre in the London Plan. Ealing was hi ...
, West London. When his father's job led the family to move to the
Cotswolds The Cotswolds (, ) is a region in central-southwest England England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britai ...
, he attended Marling School, a
grammar school A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country ...
in Stroud, Gloucestershire. He went on to study at St John's College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a BA in 1969 and a PhD in 1990. Hennessy was a Kennedy Memorial Scholar at
Harvard University Harvard University is a Private university, private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1636 as Harvard College and named for its first benefactor, the History of the Puritans in North America, Puritan cler ...
from 1971 to 1972.


Career


Journalism

Hennessy was a journalist for the ''Times Higher Education Supplement'' from 1972 to 1974. From 1974 to 1982, he wrote leaders for ''
The Times ''The Times'' is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title ''The Daily Universal Register'', adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. ''The Times'' and its sister paper '' The Sunday Times'' ...
'', for which he was also the Whitehall correspondent. He was '' The Financial Times'' lobby correspondent at Westminster in 1976. In June 1977, Hennessy accused Donald Beves of being the "fourth man" in the Cambridge Spy Ring (then-known participants were Philby, Burgess, and Maclean), but Geoffrey Grigson and others quickly leapt to the defense of Beves, considering him uninterested in politics. Hennessy wrote for ''
The Economist ''The Economist'' is a British weekly newspaper printed in demitab format and published digitally. It focuses on current affairs, international business, politics, technology, and culture. Based in London, the newspaper is owned by The Eco ...
'' in 1982. He was a regular presenter of '' Analysis'' on
BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 4 is a British national radio station owned and operated by the BBC that replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. It broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history from the BBC ...
from 1987 to 1992. On 17 November 2005, he made a trenchant appearance alongside Lord Wilson of Dinton before the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliamen ...
Public Administration Select Committee on the publication of political memoirs. In July and August 2013 he was the interviewer for
BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 4 is a British national radio station owned and operated by the BBC that replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. It broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history from the BBC ...
's ''Reflections'', a series of four biographical interview programmes featuring Shirley Williams, Jack Straw, Norman Tebbit and Neil Kinnock. Hennessy continues to present the programme. On 17 April 2022, he was interviewed by
BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 4 is a British national radio station owned and operated by the BBC that replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. It broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history from the BBC ...
's ''Broadcasting House''. On the subject of the Metropolitan Police fines issued to
Boris Johnson Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (; born 19 June 1964) is a British politician, writer and journalist who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 2019 to 2022. He previously served as ...
for lockdown breaches during the Partygate scandal, he said "I think we're in the most severe constitutional crisis involving a prime minister that I can remember".


Academic career

Hennessy co-founded the Institute of Contemporary British History in 1986. From 1992 to 2000, he was professor of contemporary history at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. From 1994 to 1997, he gave public lectures as Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College, London. From 2001, he has been Attlee professor of contemporary British history at Queen Mary, University of London. His analysis of post-war Britain, ''Never Again: Britain 1945–1951'', won the Duff Cooper Prize in 1992 and the NCR Book Award in 1993. His study of Britain in the 1950s and the rise of Harold Macmillan, ''Having It So Good: Britain in the 1950s'', won the 2007 Orwell Prize for political writing.


Elevation to the peerage

On 5 October 2010 the House of Lords Appointments Commission said Hennessy was to be a non-political crossbench peer. He was created a
life peer In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It ...
on 8 November 2010, taking the title Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield, of Nympsfield in the County of Gloucestershire. He was introduced to the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of ...
on 25 November. "I'm terribly pleased and honoured," Hennessy said at hearing the news. "I hope I can help the House of Lords a bit on constitutional matters. I'll certainly give it my best shot." In August 2014, Lord Hennessy was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to ''
The Guardian ''The Guardian'' is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as ''The Manchester Guardian'', and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers ''The Observer'' and ''The Guardian Weekly'', ''The Guardian'' is part of the Gu ...
'' opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's
referendum A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct vote by the electorate on a proposal, law, or political issue. This is in contrast to an issue being voted on by a representative. This may result in the adoption o ...
. Hennessy is married with two daughters.


Bibliography

Hennessy is the author of the following: *''Cabinet'' (1986) Blackwell *''Whitehall'' (1989) Pimlico *:Revised and extended in 2001. *''Never Again: Britain 1945–51'' (1992) Penguin *:Revised and updated in 2006. *''Pathways to the Pigeon Hole?: The Effectiveness of Official Inquiries'' (1993) University of Strathclyde *''The Hidden Wiring: Unearthing the British Constitution'' (1995) Gollancz *''Ready, Steady, Go!: New Labour and Whitehall'' (1997) Fabian Society *''The Blair Centre: A Question of Command and Control?'' (1999) Public Management Foundation *''The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders since 1945'' (2001) St. Martin's Press *''The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War'' (2002) Penguin *:Republished and extended in 2010, see below. *''Rulers and Servants of the State: The Blair Style of Government, 1997-2004'' (2004) Office for Public Management *''Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties'' (2006) *''Cabinets and the Bomb'' (2007) Oxford University Press *''The New Protective State: Government, Intelligence and Terrorism'' (2007) Continuum *''The Secret State: Preparing For The Worst 1945–2010'' (2010) Penguin *''Distilling the Frenzy: Writing the History of One's Own Times'' (2012) *''Establishment and Meritocracy'' (2014) Haus Publishing *''Kingdom to Come: Thoughts on the Union Before and After the Scottish Referendum'' (2015) Haus Publishing *''Reflections: Conversations with Politicians'' (2016) Haus Publishing *:Expanded and reissued in 2020, see below. *''The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service Since 1945'' (2015) with James Jinks Penguin *''Winds of Change: Britain in the Sixties'' (2019) Allen Lane *''The Complete Reflections: Conversations with Politicians'' (2020) Haus Publishing *''A Duty of Care: Britain Before and After Corona'' (2022) Penguin *''The Bonfire of the Decencies: Repairing and Restoring the British Constitution'' (2022) Haus Publishing


See also

* Gresham Professor of Rhetoric


References


Sources


'Corrected Oral Transcript of Oral Evidence presented to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee on the publication of political memoirs on 17 November 2005 by Lord Wilson of Dinton and Professor Peter Hennessy'
7 December 2005. Retrieved 31 December 2005


External links




Archives of Peter Hennessy held by Queen Mary, University of London Archives

House of Lords official page

''Guardian'' March 2004
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Hennessy, Peter 1947 births Living people English male journalists English historians English people of Irish descent English Roman Catholics Fellows of the British Academy Harvard University alumni Kennedy Scholarships People from Finchley Academics of Queen Mary University of London Alumni of St John's College, Cambridge The Times people People educated at St Benedict's School, Ealing Crossbench life peers Professors of Gresham College People educated at Marling School Historians of the United Kingdom English constitutionalists English male non-fiction writers Honorary Fellows of the London School of Economics People's peers Life peers created by Elizabeth II