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John Bagnell Bury (16 October 1861 – 1 June 1927), known as J. B. Bury (rhymes with "jury"), was an eminent Irish historian, classical scholar, Byzantinist and philologist.



Bury was born and raised in Clontibret, County Monaghan, where his father was Rector of the Anglican Church of Ireland. He was educated first by his parents and then at Foyle College in Derry and Trinity College in Dublin, where he graduated in 1882 and was made a fellow in 1885, at the age of 24. In 1893 he gained a chair in Modern History at Trinity College, which he held for nine years. In 1898 he was appointed Regius Professor of Greek, also at Trinity, a post he held simultaneously with his history professorship.[1] In 1902 he became Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University.

At Cambridge, Bury became mentor to the great medievalist Sir Steven Runciman, who later commented that he had been Bury's "first, and only, student." At first the reclusive Bury tried to brush him off; then, when Runciman mentioned that he could read Russian, Bury gave him a stack of Bulgarian articles to edit, and so their relationship began. Bury was the author of the first truly authoritative biography of Saint Patrick (1905).

Bury remained at Cambridge until his death at the age of 65 in Rome. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery there.


Bury's writings, on subjects ranging from ancient Greece to the 19th-century papacy, are at once scholarly and accessible to the layman. His two works on the philosophy of history elucidated the Victorian ideals of progress and rationality which undergirded his more specific histories. He also led a revival of Byzantine history, which English-speaking historians, following Edward Gibbon, had largely neglected. He contributed to, and was himself the subject of an article in, the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. With Frank Adcock and S. A. Cook he edited the Cambridge Ancient History, launched in 1919.


  • Nemean Odes of Pindar (1890)
  • Isthmian Odes of Pindar (1892)
  • History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene (1889) — Volume One, Volume Two
  • History of the Roman Empire From its Foundation to the Death of Marcus Aurelius (1893)
  • History of Greece to the Death of Alexander the Great (1900)
  • Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History (1905)
  • History of the Eastern Empire from the Fall of Irene to the Accession of Basil I (1912)
  • History of the Freedom of Thought (1914) — Project Gutenberg free eBook
  • Idea of Progress (1920) — Project Gutenberg free eBook
  • History of the Later Roman Empire from the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian (1923) — at LacusCurtius
  • The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians (1928)
  • History of the Papacy in the 19th Century (1864–1878) (1930)

As editor


  1. ^ Irish Times, 21 May 2008

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