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Jonathan Philip Chadwick Sumption, OBE, QC (born 9 December 1948) is an eminent UK barrister and medieval historian.

He is famous for his appearance in the Hutton Inquiry on the UK government's behalf [1], for his part in the Three Rivers case [2] and his representation of former Cabinet minister Stephen Byers and the UK Department for Transport in the Railtrack private shareholders' action against the British Government in 2005.

As an historian his works include a substantial chronological history of the Hundred Years' War, so far in three volumes.



Sumption was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford. He graduated from Oxford University in 1970, receiving a B.A. degree in History with first class honours.[3]

Early career

He worked in History as a Fellow of Magdalen College, before leaving to pursue law. He was called to the bar at Inner Temple in 1975 and has since pursued a successful legal practice in commercial law. In the late 1970s Sumption wrote regularly for the Sunday Telegraph.

Later career

He became a Queen's Counsel in 1986, and a Bencher at Inner Temple in 1991. He acted in the landmark Three Rivers DC v Bank of England case involving the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. He is a deputy High Court judge in the Chancery Division, and a judge of the Jersey and Guernsey Court of Appeal.

He is a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission, as a representative of the legal profession, and is also a Governor of the Royal Academy of Music

He is joint head of Brick Court Chambers (website),the UK's largest set by revenue [4].

On 30 November 2007 he was successful, acting as a litigant in person before Mr Justice Collins, in a judicial review application in the Administrative Court concerning development near his home in Greenwich [5]. N.B. This reference needs correction.

Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

On 9 February 2009, The Guardian newspaper reported that it understood that Sumption has applied to be appointed as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

In October 2009, the Supreme Court took over all the powers and functions of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (the "Law Lords"), the highest court in the United Kingdom in civil matters and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in criminal appeals.

In the history of the Appellate Committee, there have been only four appointments of men straight from the Bar, without any intervening full-time judicial experience. Two were Scots lawyers: Lord Macmillan in 1930 and Lord Reid in 1948; the others were Lord Carson (1921) and Lord Radcliffe (1949).


He has been described by the Sydney Morning Herald as "one of the most expensive silks in Britain". The Guardian describes him as being a member of the million pound club, the elite group of barristers who earn over a million pounds year [6]. In a letter to the Guardian in 2001, he compared his "puny £1.6million a year" to the vastly larger amounts that comparable superstars in business, sports and entertainment are paid [7].

For a four week trial in the UK in 2005 he charged £800,000 plus VAT to represent the UK government in the largest class action in the UK, brought by 49,500 private shareholders of the collapsed national railway infrastructure company Railtrack[8]. This was probably the case with the highest profile of the year in the UK, and the government had a great deal, in money and reputation, at stake. The case examined some of the actions of the government, especially of former transport secretary Stephen Byers MP. Byers became the only former Cabinet Minister to be cross-examined in the High Court in relation to his actions in modern times. The UK Government won the case, even if many commentators regarded the shareholders as having won the moral argument.

Reputation as a historian

His narrative history of The Hundred Years War between England and France (so far 3 volumes, 1991-2009) has been widely praised as 'a masterpiece ... earning a place alongside Sir Steven Runciman's History of the Crusades' according to Frederic Raphael, that 'deploys an enormous variety of documentary material ... and interprets it with imaginative and intelligent sympathy' and is 'elegantly written' (Rosamond McKitterick, Evening Standard); for Allan Massie it is 'An enterprise on a truly Victorian scale ... What is most impressive about this work, apart from the author's mastery of his material and his deployment of it, is his political intelligence'.[9]


  • Pilgrimage: An Image of Medieval Religion (1975) ISBN 0-571-10339-1
  • The Albigensian Crusade (1978) ISBN 0-571-11064-9
  • Equality (1979, with Keith Joseph) ISBN 0-7195-3651-0
  • The Hundred Years War I: Trial by Battle (1991) ISBN 0-571-13895-0
  • The Hundred Years War II: Trial by Fire (1999) ISBN 0-571-13896-9
  • The Age of Pilgrimage: The Medieval Journey to God (2003) ISBN 1-58768-025-4
  • The Hundred Years War III: Divided Houses (2009) ISBN 0-571-13897-7

Sumption, Jonathan (4 October 2008). "The pragmatic approach". The Spectator 308 (9397): 38. Retrieved 23 December 2008.   Review of Patten, Chris (2008). What next? Surviving the Twenty-First Century. Allen Lane. ISBN 9780713998566.  



  1. ^ Ministers 'did nothing wrong' in revealing identity of Dr Kelly, The Guardian, 26 September 2003
  2. ^ House of Lords Judgments - Three Rivers District Council and Others (Original Appellants and Cross-Respondents) v. Governor and Company of The Bank of England (Original Respondents and Cross-Appellants), 18 May 2000
  3. ^ Curriculum Vitae of Jonathan Sumption QC, Brick Court Chambers website
  4. ^ The ~UK 100 Annual Report, 24 May 2008
  5. ^ England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions, 30 November 2007
  6. ^ Government calls in top QC, The Guardian 17 September 2003
  7. ^ Government calls in top QC, ibid.
  8. ^ The Telegraph, 30 April 2004
  9. ^ Quotations from the selection of reviews displayed on the back of The Hundred Years War III: Divided Houses.

External links



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