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MacArthur, Brian 1940–

MacArthur, Brian 1940–

(Brian Roger MacArthur)


Born February 5, 1940; son of S.H. and M. MacArthur; married Peta Deschampsneufs, 1966 (divorced, 1971); married Bridget Trahair, 1975 (divorced, 1993); married Maureen Waller, 2000; children: two daughters. Education: Leeds University, B.A. Hobbies and other interests: Reading and travel.


Home—London, England.


Writer, historian, editor, and journalist. Worked as a reporter for Yorkshire Post, 1962-64, Daily Mail, 1964-66, and Guardian, 1966-67; Times, London, England, education correspondent, 1967-70, associate editor, beginning 1991; Times Higher Education Supplement, founding editor, 1971-76, executive editor, 1981-82; Home News, editor, 1976-78; Evening Standard, London, department editor, 1978-79; Sunday Times, London, chief assistant to editor, 1979-81, junior department editor, 1982-84, joint deputy editor, 1987-91; Western Morning News, editor, 1984-85; Today, editor-in-chief, 1985-87.


Garrick Club.


Honorary M.A. from Open University, 1976.


(With Richard Bourne) The Struggle for Education, 1870-1970: A Pictorial History of Popular Education and the National Union of Teachers, Schoolmaster Publishing (London, England), 1970.

(Editor) New Horizons for Education: A Symposium on the Future as Britain Enters Its Second Century of State Education, Council for Educational Advancement (London, England), 1970.

Beyond 1980: The Evolution of British Higher Education, International Council for Educational Development (New York, NY), 1975.

Eddy Shah: Today and the Newspaper Revolution, David & Charles (North Pomfret, England), 1988.

(Editor) Despatches from the Gulf War, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1991.

Deadline Sunday: A Life in the Week of the Sunday Times, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1991.

(Editor) The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches, Viking (New York, NY), 1992, 2nd revised edition, Penguin (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor) The Penguin Book of Speeches: An Anthology of Great Oratory through the Ages, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor) The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches, Viking (New York, NY), 1996.

(Editor) Requiem: Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997: Memories and Tributes, Arcade (New York, NY), 1997.

What Future for Quality Newspapers?, Ditchley Foundation (Oxfordshire, England), 1997.

De Beauvoir Town Millennium Scrapbook: A Moment in Time—Captured by Its People, De Beauvoir Scrapbook Association (London, England), 1999.

(Editor) The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.

Surviving the Sword: Prisoners of the Japanese in the Far East, 1942-45, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.


Brian MacArthur is a writer whose journalistic work has spanned several decades and includes a career at the London Times as well as a notorious run as the editor-in-chief of Today, a short-lived British tabloid. In addition, he has written and edited several books with topics ranging from Great Britain's educational system to the fast-paced life of a journalist, and has compiled several volumes of significant speeches from history. Other topics benefiting from MacArthur's interest include the media coverage of the First Gulf War, writings in memory of the late Princess Diana, and a volume recounting the sufferings endured by Allied military forces in Japanese prisoner of war camps.

MacArthur was born on February 5, 1940. His education included elementary schools like Brentwood School and Helsby Grammar School. MacArthur graduated from Leeds University with a B.A. and immediately began work as a journalist with the British papers. In his 1991 publication Deadline Sunday: A Life in the Week of the Sunday Times, he explores the weekly chores and assignments involved in the production of a newspaper. Cutting from one center of action to another, MacArthur presents not only the harried pace of a journalist but the excitement that it entails. In between the moments of decision or action, he uses quotes from his fellow journalists on journalistic ethics. The book also features quips from columnists on the commitment it takes to be a dedicated journalist in such a fast-paced environment. MacArthur himself knows the cost of such a quick pace: He has worked for more than a dozen newspapers and has attempted to balance that pace with his personal life.

Perhaps the most personal of MacArthur's work is Eddy Shah: Today and the Newspaper Revolution, which chronicles the disastrous launching of the Today tabloid and the author's own role in it. Working at the Western Times, MacArthur was wooed away from his job there by Eddy Shah, a charismatic businessman. Shah persistently pursued MacArthur for the role of editor-in-chief of Today, and on May 17, 1985, MacArthur accepted the position. Eight months later Today was published. Almost immediately MacArthur found himself faced with printing technology that proved unreliable and inefficient, as well as a shortness of staff and financial problems. In addition to the instability of the paper's printing technology, MacArthur was faced with the same instability from Shah, a man who had no set vision for Today, either in political viewpoint or marketing focus. Today folded after only one year.

MacArthur's recollection of his experiences as editor-in-chief of Today not only addresses his own relationship with Shah, but also explore the relationship between technology and the newspaper business. Eddy Shah was praised for its fairness and its author credited for his balanced portrayal of a story which affected him personally. "MacArthur, one infers, is saddened by his experience," commented Observer contributor Dennis Hackett. "‘No single person can tell the story of Eddy Shah and the first year of Today,’ he writes. But much can be gained here from reading between the lines and forming one's own conclusion from the evidence fairly presented."

Continuing to write about the information industry, MacArthur explores the effect of the media on the Gulf War in his editorship of 1991's Despatches from the Gulf War. The volume collects many pieces done by CNN and other media covering the war, among them articles in which correspondents describe the experience of viewing hundreds of deceased Iraqis on the Mutla Ridge. In addition to the physical horrors of war, the journalist includes selections on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his political leverage as compared to that possessed by other Middle Eastern leaders. MacArthur garnered praise for his diverse collection. "The book is a varied and vivid recollection of the desert storm; a reminder of the effort that went into it, and of the cost—not least in the U.S.—that is still being paid," commented Esmond Wright in a critique of the volume for Contemporary Review.

In 1993, twenty-three years after he cowrote his first book, MacArthur produced The Penguin Book of Speeches: An Anthology of Great Oratory through the Ages. This volume, a collection of speeches throughout history, is one of several such anthologies, the first of which was 1992's The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches. Many selections from Twentieth-Century Speeches serve as testimony to the growth of socialism and the women's movement. The conflicts between communism and fascism are also threaded throughout the selections. MacArthur's collection focuses in particular on the wars that permeated the century, collecting the oratory of Adolf Hitler, speeches on Vietnam, and Tony Benn's speech delivered from the House of Commons against a second Gulf war.

The juxtaposition of speeches reflecting the antiwar stance of the twentieth century with patriotic speeches railing against human rights abuses elicited praise from critics. Rather than detract from each other and diminish the poignancy of individual speeches, MacArthur's selections were deemed by reviewers to work well together as records of significant historical movements. Ferdinand Mount wrote in a review for the Times Literary Supplement that "there are plenty of incidental pleasures to be had from the odd juxtapositions of speakers and the reminders of the long ancestry of some memorable phrases—Lloyd George in the Norway debate, advising Churchill not to ‘allow himself to be converted into an air-raid shelter to keep the splinters from hitting his colleagues,’ fifty years before John Major said the same of Norman Lamont."

The issue of human rights also figures prominently in MacArthur's 1999 volume The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, which begins with Ida B. Wells's speech attacking the lynching of African Americans in 1900. The announcement by Chinese students that they would enter into a hunger strike is included as well. This particular announcement preceded the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. The apartheid movement is criticized via Donald Woods' eulogy of murdered South African leader Steve Biko. Arthur Koestler's speech against capital punishment, specifically against women, rounds out the human rights movement within the book.

Toward the end of The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches is the eulogy presented by the Earl of Spencer at the funeral of Princess Diana, a royal figure who met a tragic death in 1997. MacArthur would further explore the life and death of Diana in his book Requiem: Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997: Memories and Tributes. Here he collects editorials, memoirs, and poems all written after the British princess's death as the result of a motor vehicle accident. Requiem reports on the phenomenon that allowed the princess to be both held in awe by the public because of her royal stature and cherished as a public advocate and friend to those in need.

In Surviving the Sword: Prisoners of the Japanese in the Far East, 1942-45, MacArthur focuses his journalistic attention on a difficult aspect of World War II history, the brutal abuse of prisoners of war in Japanese custody. Thousands of British, Australian, and American troops were captured by the Japanese in the early years of the war. These Far East Prisoners of War, or Fepows, were routinely and consistently subjected to torture and ghastly living conditions in Japanese forced-labor camps. Medical treatment was practically non-existent. Men too sick or injured to stand were forced to sit and work. Starvation, disease, and sadistic beatings were a daily reality, and prisoners were often killed at a whim. MacArthur tells of the horrors endured by the prisoners while being forced to build the Burma Railway, and he also recounts the true story of the famed Bridge on the River Kwai. The tales of the Fepow's hideous treatment by the Japanese are stark and unvarnished, made all the more vivid by a focus on the travails of individual prisoners. Yet MacArthur also uncovers some stories of unexpectedly humane treatment of prisoners, as well as instances of heroic endurance and self-sacrifice that clearly illustrated the character of the prisoners and their will to survive. "27 percent of the Japanese prisoners died in captivity compared with 4 percent of Germany's; this fact alone is damning," noted reviewer Richard Garrett on Asian Review of Books on the Web. MacArthur presents a harrowing recounting of the prisoners' barbaric treatment in a story that tells of "cruelty and depravity and of heroism, gallantry and most important, survival against almost (but not quite) overwhelming odds," commented a critic in Contemporary Review. Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor called the story as presented by MacArthur, "a tough history to face but a moving memorial to the men it remembers."



American Heritage, November-December, 2005, "Allied Prisoners of the Japanese: A Recent Volume Gives the Horrifying Details," review of Surviving the Sword: Prisoners of the Japanese in the Far East, 1942-45, p. 22.

Booklist, June 1, 1993, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches, p. 1772; July, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Surviving the Sword, p. 1894.

Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 1993, Merle Rubin, review of The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches, p. 12.

Contemporary Review, February, 1992, Esmond Wright, review of Despatches from the Gulf War, p. 107; October, 2005, review of Surviving the Sword, p. 253.

Economist, November 21, 1992, review of The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches, p. 107.

Observer (London, England), November 13, 1988, review of Eddy Shah: Today and the Newspaper Revolution, p. 43; December 29, 1991, review of Deadline Sunday, p. 43; November 30, 1997, review of Requiem: Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997: Memories and Tributes, p. 17.

Spectator, March 5, 2005, Sibylla Jane Flower, "Bad Presentation of a Good Cause," review of Surviving the Sword, p. 51.

Times Literary Supplement, November 15, 1991, review of Deadline Sunday, p. 16; December 11, 1992, Ferdinand Mount, review of The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Speeches, p. 10.


Asian Review of Books on the Web, (October 9, 2005), Richard Garrett, review of Surviving the Sword.

Penguin UK Web site, (December 17, 2006), biography of Brian MacArthur.

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