Brogan, Hugh 1936–
Brogan, Hugh 1936–
(Denis Hugh Vercingetorix Brogan)
Born March 20, 1936, in Oxford, England; son of Denis William (a historian) and Olwen Phillis Frances (an archaeologist) Brogan. Education: St. John's College, Cambridge University, B.A., 1959, M.A. 1964. Hobbies and other interests: Collecting English epitaphs.
Office—University of Essex, Department of History, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, England. Agent—Mark Paterson, Wivenhoe, Colchester, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, historian, biographer, journalist, and educator. The Economist, staff member, 1959-63; St. John's College, Cambridge, fellow, 1963-74; University of Essex, Colchester, England, lecturer in history, 1974-92, R.A. Butler Professor of History, 1992-98, research professor, 1998—. Military service: Royal Regiment of Artillery, 1954-56.
Royal Historical Society (fellow), British Association of American Studies, Historical Association, American Historical Association, Reform Club London, Survivors Club (Colchester, England; served as president, 1984-86).
Harkness fellow, Commonwealth Fund, 1962-64; recipient of an honorary degree from University of Essex, 2007.
Tocqueville, Fontana (London, England), 1973.
(Editor and author of introduction) The Times Reports the American Civil War: Extracts from "The Times," 1860-65, preface by Colin Bell, Times Books (London, England), 1975.
The Life of Arthur Ransome, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1984.
(Editor and author of introduction) Arthur Ransome, The War of the Birds and the Beasts and Other Russian Tales, illustrated by Faith Jaques, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1984.
Mowgli's Sons: Kipling and Baden-Powell's Scouts, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1987.
(Editor) Arthur Ransome, Coots in the North and Other Stories, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1988.
(With A.P. Kerr) Conversations et Correspondance d'Alexis de Tocqueville et Nassau William Senior, 1991.
(With Charles Mosley) American Presidential Families, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1993.
Kennedy ("Profiles in Power" series), Longman (New York, NY), 1996.
(Editor) Signalling from Mars: The Letters of Arthur Ransome, Pimlico (London, England), 1998.
The Penguin History of the United States of America, 2nd edition, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor to books, including Europe in the Twentieth Century, edited by J.M. Roberts, Macdonald, 1971; The American Destiny, edited by Henry Steele Commager, Orbis (London, England), 1986; Dictionary of Modern Political Ideologies, edited by M.R. Riff, Manchester University Press (Manchester, England), 1987; The Troubled Face of Biography, edited by E. Homberger and J. Charmley, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1988; American Literature, edited by Brian Ford, Penguin (New York, NY), 1988; and American History in a New Era, University of Essex, Department of History (Colchester, England), 2001.
Contributor to periodicals, including Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, Times Higher Education Supplement, New Perspective, History Today, Independent on Sunday, Kipling Journal, American Literature, Reviews in American History, Royal Society of Arts Journal, European Studies Review, Journal of American Studies, Cambridge Review, Twentieth Century Literature, Journal of Contemporary History, Historical Journal, and Listener.
Writer, historian, and biographer Hugh Brogan is a professor of history at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. This British historian's academic career has included numerous stints as a lecturer and instructor in American schools, particularly during summer sessions. His scholarly interest has focused largely on the history of the United States and on U.S. political history. In addition, Brogan researches and writes about British history, French history, and children's writer and journalist Arthur Ransome.
Brogan's first book was Tocqueville, a brief monograph on the life and works of Alexis de Tocqueville, the nineteenth-century philosopher, historian, and essayist. Tocqueville's writings on the American and French revolutions and on the character of democracy are still considered highly relevant, and the man is brought to life by Brogan, who, according to a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, "writes engagingly. He is direct, neat, amusing." The critic added, "It seems likely that the reader will profit from Mr. Brogan's enthusiasm both for Tocqueville and for the ideals of liberty."
Brogan's continuing interest in the United States is expressed in his next publication, The Times Reports the American Civil War: Extracts from "The Times," 1860-65, which presents and comments on essays originally published in the London Times on the subject of the Civil War. Although a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement suggested that the reader heed Brogan's advice to consult a broader history of the war while reading his book, the critic added: "This small but expert anthology of reports, leaders, letters and other items culled from the contemporary Times is a useful addition to the literature from a British point of view."
Brogan chronicled the life of a celebrated British journalist, nature lover, and children's book author in The Life of Arthur Ransome. Ransome walked away from an unhappy marriage in England to go to Russia in hopes of gathering a manuscript of the country's folktales. Described by Christopher Hawtree in Spectator as "an essentially simple man whose love of books had led him into a life for which picaresque might be too conservative a description," Ransome returned to England only after consorting with the leaders of the Russian Revolution and reporting on the events of the pivotal decade of 1910-20 for an English newspaper. The biography earned praise from reviewers, including Hawtree, who described the work as "a portrait of the man that is as objective as it is affectionate." Hawtree praised the clarity with which Brogan discusses the complex events that took place during Ransome's stay in Russia, and J.P. Crowther of the London Times noted the part played by "the success of Hugh Brogan's definitive Ransome biography" in the revival of interest in Arthur Ransome in England in the 1980s. Brogan also edited Ransome's unfinished manuscript, titled Coots in the North and Other Stories, which constitutes the last volume in Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons" series for children. Remarked Crowther: "Coots in the North is a writer's masterclass of mood, time, and character." Ransome's letters were collected in Signalling from Mars: The Letters of Arthur Ransome. A London Times reviewer noted that Ransome's inability to understand why the daughter he abandoned would later forcefully reject him is "the only really sad note in this book."
Brogan contributed a volume on John F. Kennedy to a British book series titled "Profiles in Power." The author believes that Kennedy was a very important historical figure. His book "does not prove that contention," found John Robert Greene in History: Reviews of New Books, who also faulted the author for his "chatty" writing style. Nevertheless, Greene found Brogan's attention to the significance of Kennedy's writing to be "refreshing" and called the author's description of Kennedy's run for the presidency "thoughtful and revealing." Esmond Wright, commenting on the book for Contemporary Review, approved of its treatment of foreign policy, Vietnam, and civil rights, and lauded Brogan for writing "with passion yet with objectivity." Wright concluded: "This is a valuable introduction to JFK, and offers a vivid and intelligent commentary on a remarkable personality."
Brogan returns to an earlier biographical subject with Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, published in England as Alexis de Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution. With this work, Brogan "has now written the most complete life to date," remarked Malcolm Deas in Spectator. A pioneering political reformer and historian, Tocqueville was the author of one of the most influential books on American democracy, Democracy in America. The book "made him a household name in the mid-nineteenth century and is still regarded by many scholars as the greatest work on America ever written," observed Rebecca Abrams in a London Guardian review. In what a Publishers Weekly contributor called a "magisterial biography," Brogan delves deeply into Tocqueville's personal life, political beliefs, and the development of the ideas that have made him a seminal figure in modern political thought. In addition to exploring the individual troubles Tocqueville endures, such as constant ill health and a surprising marriage, Brogan also carefully analyzes the events surrounding the philosopher's travels to the United States and the writing of Democracy in America.
Although he is admiring and laudatory of Tocqueville, Brogan is not uncritical of him, and he readily points out many of the great thinker's faults and flaws. Tocqueville was, for example, "a man of his class, capable of gross insensitivity to the lower depths, especially the urban poor and industrial workers," observed M.D. Aeschliman in National Review. Yet Brogan also demonstrates that "Tocqueville was a rare thing: an aristocrat who was really noble, in thought, word, and deed, and whose liberality was never libertine," Aeschliman noted.
Booklist critic Gilbert Taylor mused that Brogan's biography is "significant for the way it integrates de Tocqueville's daily life with the development of his political thought." Brogan's historical and critical "expertise pays constant rewards to the reader. His knowledge of nineteenth-century French politics is comprehensive and his attention to context punctilious," commented Christopher Caldwell in the New York Times Book Review. The biography is "never dreary. Tocqueville's life is always a pulsing intellectual and political drama," Caldwell continued. "Brogan's witty, affectionate but far from uncritical portrait humanizes this intellectual biography," noted London Independent reviewer David Coward. David Keymer, writing in Library Journal, stated that "Brogan's will be the definitive account of Tocqueville's life for generations to come." In assessing Brogan's biography of Tocqueville, Abrams concluded: "A painstaking and scholarly work, Brogan's book stands as an invaluable contribution to our understanding of 19th-century history. To anyone with a serious interest in contemporary America and its attitude towards democracy, it is indispensable."
Hugh Brogan once told CA: "The only vital subjects are love and money. The rest is silence."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Spectator, May, 2007, Joseph A. Harriss, "Tocqueville between Two Worlds," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 64.
Biography, spring, 2007, Ferdinand Mount, review of Alexis de Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution, p. 297; summer, 2007, Clifford Orwin and Joseph J. Ellis, review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 447.
Booklist, March 15, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 7.
Choice, September 2007, review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 167.
Contemporary Review, April, 1997, Esmond Wright, review of Kennedy, p. 217; October, 1999, review of The Longman History of the United States of America, 2nd edition, p. 224; June, 2001, review of The Penguin History of the United States of America, 2nd edition, p. 377.
English Historical Review, January, 1987, P.J. Waller, review of The Life of Arthur Ransome, p. 273.
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, August 1, 2007, Joshua Mitchell, "Looking for America," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 58.
Guardian (London, England), January 20, 2007, Rebecca Abrams, review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life.
History: Reviews of New Books, fall, 1997, John Robert Greene, review of Kennedy, p. 39.
History: The Journal of the Historical Association, October, 1999, Mark J. White, review of Kennedy, p. 703.
History Today, July, 1985, review of The Longman History of the United States of America, p. 64; April, 1994, review of American Presidential Families, p. 57.
Independent (London, England), February 2, 2007, David Coward, review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life.
Journal of American Studies, April, 1998, Iwan Morgan, review of Kennedy, p. 167.
Library Journal, July 16, 1986, Charles K. Piehl, review of The Longman History of the United States of America, p. 81; March 1, 2007, David Keymer, review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 91.
London Review of Books, March 22, 2007, Colin Kidd, "A Matter of Caste," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution, p. 29.
National Review, April 2, 2007, M.D. Aeschliman, "Virtue's Aristocrat," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 46.
New Criterion, May, 2007, Harvey C. Mansfield, "Lacking Elevation," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 64.
New Republic, June 18, 2007, Mark Lilla, "The Prophet," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 45.
New York Review of Books, November 22, 2007, Alan Ryan, "Tocqueville: The Flaws of Genius," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 53.
New York Times Book Review, July 8, 2007, Christopher Caldwell, "Even God Quotes Tocqueville," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life.
Publishers Weekly, January 8, 2007, review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 44.
Quadrant, April, 2007, Jack Sexton, "The Man Who Could See It Coming," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution, p. 87.
School Librarian, December, 1984, review of The Life of Arthur Ransome, p. 388; September, 1985, review of The Longman History of the United States of America, p. 280.
Spectator, April 26, 1997, Juliet Townsend, review of Signalling from Mars: The Letters of Arthur Ran-some, p. 38; January 21, 1984, Christopher Hawtree, review of The Life of Arthur Ransome, p. 22; December 6, 2006, Malcolm Deas, "A Cold Fish in Deep Water," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life.
Times (London, England), October 29, 1988, J.P. Crowther, review of The Life of Arthur Ransome; March 20, 1997, review of Signalling from Mars, p. 47.
Times Educational Supplement, January 1, 1988, review of Mowgli's Sons: Kipling and Baden-Powell's Scouts, p. 23.
Times Literary Supplement, April 27, 1973, review of Tocqueville, p. 465; June 13, 1975, review of The Times Reports the American Civil War: Extracts from "The Times," 1860-65, p. 680; January 6, 1989, T.J. Binyon, review of Coots in the North and Other Stories, p. 22; May 2, 1997, T.J. Binyon, review of Signalling from Mars, p. 36; February 23, 2007, Ferdinand Mount, "Vivid Dreamer," review of Alexis de Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution, p. 4.
Washington Post Book World, April 1, 2007, Joseph J. Ellis, review of Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 2.
University of Essex Web site, http://www.essex.ac.uk/ (February 12, 2008), biography of Hugh Brogan.