Porter, Bernard 1941- (Bernard John Porter)

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Porter, Bernard 1941- (Bernard John Porter)


Born February 5, 1941, in Essex, England; son of Cyril George (a teacher) and Ruth (a teacher) Porter; married Deirdre O'Hara (a state registered nurse), July 29, 1972; children: Zoe Caroline, Benedict Campion, Kate. Education: Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, B.A., 1963, M.A. and Ph.D., both 1967. Religion: "Agnostic, with Methodist upbringing." Hobbies and other interests: Art, architecture, classical music (especially nineteenth-century romantic music), cricket, science fiction.


Home—Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. Office—Department of History, University of Newcastle, Newcastle NE1 7RU, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, research fellow at Corpus Christi College, 1966-68; University of Hull, Hull, England, lecturer, 1968-78, senior lecturer, 1978-87, reader in history, 1987-92; University of Newcastle, Newcastle, England, professor of modern history to professor emeritus, 1992—.


Association of University Teachers, Historical Association, Royal Historical Society (fellow).


Critics of Empire: British Radical Attitudes to Colonialism in Africa, 1896-1914, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1968.

The Lion's Share: A Short History of British Imperialism, 1850-1970, Longman (New York, NY), 1976, 2nd edition published as The Lion's Share: A Short History of British Imperialism, 1850-1983, 1984, 4th edition, 2004.

The Refugee Question in Mid-Victorian Politics, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1979.

Britain, Europe, and the World, 1850-1982, Allen & Unwin (Winchester, MA), 1983, 2nd edition published as Britain, Europe, and the World, 1850-1986, 1987.

The Origins of the Vigilant State: The London Metropolitan Police Special Branch before the First World War, Weidenfeld (London, England), 1987.

Plots and Paranoia: A History of Political Espionage in Britain, 1790-1988, Unwin Hyman (London, England), 1989.

Britannia's Burden: The Political Evolution of Modern Britain, 1857-1990, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1994.

The Absent-minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Empire and Superempire: Britain, America, and the World, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2006.

Contributor to books, including The South African War, edited by Peter Warwick, Longman, 1980; Edwardian England, edited by Donald Read, Croom Helm (London, England), 1982; Fabian Essays in Socialist Thought, edited by B. Pimlott, Heinemann (London, England), 1984. Contributor of articles to professional journals, including Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Immigrants and Minorities, Victorian Studies, Historical Journal, History Today, Times Higher Educa-tion Supplement, Intelligence and National Security, Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Labour History, and Encyclopedia International. Editor, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 1979-82.


Writer and educator Bernard Porter graduated from the University of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1963, followed by both his master's degree and his doctorate in 1967. Porter went on to serve as a lecturer in history at the University of Hull, and ultimately professor of history at the University of Newcastle, where he remains on the faculty as a professor emeritus. Porter has written a number of books over the course of his career, including The Absent-minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain and Empire and Superempire: Britain, America, and the World. In The Absent-minded Imperialists, Porter argues against the theory that the British Empire set the tone for the behavior and thought processes of its citizens during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, instead suggesting that most British citizens paid very little attention to the building or status of the Empire itself. Brett Bennett, in a review for the British Scholar Web site, pointed out the difficulty in proving that a particular attitude and thought process did not exist, but concluded that "Porter sets the bar higher for cultural historians who argue that imperialism dominated the minds and lives of Britons in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century." A contributor to Contemporary Review noted that Porter "raises many fascinating and intriguing questions for any reader."

Empire and Superempire compares the British Empire to the development of the more modern American "Empire," a period of similar prosperity and global strength that is nonetheless defined by unique successes and characteristics. He focuses in particular on post-9/11 America, when he considers the country to have truly separated itself from its British forebearers and attained a more elevated status. Patrick Brantlinger, reviewing the book for Victorian Studies, commented: "Porter is often an astute observer of the politics of both imperialisms. The main drawbacks of Empire and Superempire are Porter's aversion to theory, particularly of the postcolonial sort, and his inclination to overstate the degree to which the British … were ‘absentminded imperialists.’"



Contemporary Review, May, 2005, review of The Absent-minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain, p. 316.

Victorian Studies, spring, 2007, Patrick Brantlinger, review of Empire and Superempire: Britain, America, and the World.


British Scholar Web site,http://www.britishscholar.org/ (January 28, 2008), Brett Bennett, review of The Absent-minded Imperialists.

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