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Peter John Hennessy
Born 28 March 1947
Occupation English historian and academic
Known for Prize winning author

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


Early life

Hennessy was the youngest of a large Catholic family and he was brought up in large council houses, first in Aladial Avenue and then in Linhurst Gardens, Finchley.[1] 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.[1] He was a subject of the first episode of the BBC radio 4 series The House I Grew Up In first broadcast on 6 August 2007 in which he talked about his childhood.[1]


He attended St Benedict's School, Ealing, West London. After his father's job led the family to relocate in the Cotswolds, he attended Marling School (a grammar school) in Stroud. He went on to attend St John's College, Cambridge where he gained a BA in 1969 and a PhD in 1990. He was a Kennedy Memorial Scholar at Harvard University from 1971-72.


Hennessy was a journalist for the Times Higher Education Supplement from 1972-74. He wrote leaders for The Times from 1974-82, for which he was also the Whitehall Correspondent. He was The Financial Times' Lobby Correspondent at Westminster in 1976 and he wrote for The Economist in 1982. He co-founded the Institute of Contemporary British History in 1986. He was a regular presenter of Analysis on BBC Radio 4 from 1987 to 1992. From 1994 to 1997, he gave public lectures as professor of rhetoric at Gresham College, London. From 1992-2000 he was Professor of Contemporary History at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. From 2001, he has been Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary.

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.

On 17 November 2005, he made a trenchant appearance alongside Lord Wilson of Dinton before the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee on the publication of political memoirs.

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.[2]

Personal life

He is married with two daughters.


Hennessy is the author of the following:

  • Cabinet (1986) ISBN 0631149686
  • Whitehall (1989) ISBN 0029144418
  • Never Again: Britain 1945-51 (1992) ISBN 0679433635
  • The Hidden Wiring: Unearthing the British Constitution (1995) ISBN 0575061766
  • The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders since 1945 (2000) ISBN 0312293135
  • The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War (2002) ISBN 0713996269
  • Having it so good : Britain in the fifties (2006) ISBN 9780713995718
  • Cabinets and the Bomb (2007) ISBN 9780197264225 Oxford University Press

See also



External links



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