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School of History

Professor Peter Hennessy


Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History



As journalist for over 20 years – with spells on The TimesThe Financial Times and The Economist – I unearthed the hidden wiring of the constitution and the power of the machinery of government in Britain.

Those themes remained at the heart of my research and teaching at Queen Mary when I moved from journalism to academia in 1992. Since then, it has been my aim to write the history of my own country, in my own times, for academic and public audiences alike.

I have been a member of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom since 2010.


Research Interests:

My research interests range widely across all aspects of contemporary British History. I have concentrated in particular on:

  • prime ministerial and Cabinet government
  • Whitehall and the hidden wiring of the British constitution
  • the Secret State and Cold War Britain
  • the Bomb
  • nuclear submarines


Winds of Change: Britain in the Early Sixties (London: Penguin, 2019)

The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service Since 1945 (London: Allen Lane, 2015)

Establishment and Meritocracy (London: Haus, 2014)

Distilling the Frenzy: Writing the History of One's Own Times (London, Biteback, 2012)

The Secret State: Preparing for the Worst, 1945-2010 (London: Penguin, 2002, rev. 2010)

Cabinets and the Bomb (Oxford: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2007)

The New Protective State: Government, Intelligence and Terrorism (London: Continuum, 2007

Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties (London: Penguin, 2006)

Never Again: Britain, 1945-51 (London: Penguin, 1992, rev. 2006)

Whitehall (London: Pimlico, 1989, rev. 2001)

The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders Since 1945 (London: Penguin, 2000)

The Blair Centre: A Question of Command and Control? (London: Public Management Foundation. 1999)

Ready, Steady, Go!: New Labour and Whitehall (London: Fabian Society, 1997)

The Hidden Wiring: Unearthing the British Constitution (London: Gollancz, 1995)

Pathways to the Pigeon Hole?: The Effectiveness of Official Inquiries (Strathclyde: University of Strathclyde, 1993)

Cabinet (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986)

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