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. On 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', published in 1940. During World War II, Brogan began in the Foreign Research and Press Service, moved briefly to the American Division of the Ministry of Information, and 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.

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', against imposing on his subject ‘a degree of abstractness or bogus neutrality that it cannot stand’. Brogan retired from his chair in 1968 and died in Cambridge on 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.


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

Access Information

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Acquisition Information

Gift : Irene Clephane : 1978 : ACCN 4430

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Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Applications for permission to quote should be sent to Archives and Special Collections, please email:

Appraisal Information

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Custodial History



None expected

Related Material

GB 247 MS Gen 522/33-34 Typescript article and correspondence of Sir William Denis Brogan;

GB 133 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.