Papers of Sir Denis William Brogan, 1900-1974, historian and political scientist

Scope and Content

  • Articles included in periodical publications 1936
  • Typescript of newspaper articles and reviews 1964-1972
  • Book reviews 1944-1969
  • Newspaper articles 1942-1967
  • Lecture notes 1936-1973
  • Correspondence 1960-1972

Administrative / Biographical History

Denis William Brogan was born in Glasgow, Scotland in  1900 . His father was from Donegal, Ireland, and had spent some time in the USA so Denis grew up sensitive to both Irish and American politics. He was educated at Rutherglen Academy before entering the  University of Glasgow, where he graduated MA in  1923 . Following further study at Balliol College, Oxford, England, he spent some time at Harvard University on a research fellowship. Following his return to the UK he worked briefly for The Times newspaper before becoming a lecturer in history at University College, London, and in  1930  as lecturer in politics at the London School of Economics. In  1933 , he published The American Political System. Appearing at a turning point both in American national development and in British awareness of the United States, it rediscovered America for a generation of British readers and profoundly influenced the perception of American politics in both academic and non-academic circles. An Introduction to American Politics followed in 1934.

That same year, Brogan left London for Oxford as fellow and tutor at Corpus Christi College. There he expanded his academic interests to take in the study of France. The impressive first-fruit of this was The Development of Modern France 1870-1939, (1940 ). Here for the first time, in English or French, the complex phenomena of modern French politics, at home and abroad, were reduced to a comprehensible narrative that does justice to economic and social factors but keeps the individual, from peasant to president, at the heart of the story. A later study, The French Nation from Napoleon to Pétain, 1814-1940 (1957 ), is marked on a smaller scale by the same characteristics. During the 1939-1945 World War, Brogan began in the Foreign Research and Press Service, moved briefly to the American Division of the Ministry of Information. For a short time he was with the Political Warfare Executive, but finally found his niche with the overseas services of the BBC. Here his exuberant energies overflowed from the European Service to the North American Service; in each capacity his role was that of an intelligence officer, providing background information and policy guidance from his diverse and capacious store of contemporary and historical knowledge. During this time he published The English People: Impressions and Observations (1943 ), characteristically precise, yet wide-ranging and shrewd, it was an essay in presenting the distinctive features of the English way of life by ‘a foreigner of a kind’. The American Problem (1944 ) was a series of loosely linked essays on the evolution of modern America, which discharges an analogous function from west to east.

In the spring of 1939 Brogan was elected to the professorship of political science at the University of Cambridge and to a fellowship at Peterhouse and to this he returned at the war's end. His approach to his chair was that of a liberal, a pragmatist, and an historically-minded student of institutions. Sceptical of systems, suspicious alike of sociological and philosophical abstractions, he warned in his inaugural lecture, The Study of Politics (1946), against imposing on his subject ‘a degree of abstractness or bogus neutrality that it cannot stand’. His lectures, delivered with a minimum of notes, do not survive, but some of the fruits of his approach can be gathered from The Price of Revolution (1951 ), a characteristically sceptical analysis in terms not so much of revolutionary professions or doctrines but of the discrepancy between cost and benefit, expectations and performance, moral claims and concrete results. Brogan retired from his chair in 1968 and died in Cambridge 5 January  1974 . In addition to many honorary doctorates from France and the United States, he was an honorary LLD (Doctor of Law) of the University of Glasgow (1946 ) and an honorary D.Litt. of Oxford University (1969 ). He was an honorary fellow of Peterhouse and Corpus Christi and became a fellow of the British Academy in 1955. He was knighted in  1963 .

Source:  H G NicholasBrogan, Sir Denis William, Dictionary of National Biography( 1986 )


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Donated, December 1978, ACCN 4430

Other Finding Aids

Item level descriptions are available via the department's online manuscripts catalogue available at the  University of Glasgow Library, Department of Special Collections website, searching by the call number MS Gen 1581

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Archivist's Note

Fonds level description compiled by Elaine MacGillivray, Archive Assistant, June 2003.

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Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Keeper of Special Collections.

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 247 procedures

Custodial History



None expected

Related Material

GB 247 MS Gen 522/33-34 Typescript article and correspondence of Sir William Denis Brogan, GB 0133 Guardian Archives, Letters to the Manchester Guardian (1927-1955),  Manchester University: John Rylands Library, GB 099 KCLMA Liddell Hart BH, Correspondence with Sir BH Liddell Hart (1940-1946),  King's College London: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives), GB/NNAF/P3616 Papers (1940-1943),  Imperial War Museum Department of Documents

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Corporate Names