He was educated at the University of Cambridge, where he gained a BA in 1953, an MA and a PhD in 1957. He was appointed a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in 1955 and a University Lecturer in History in 1965, which he held until 1980. He was then Professor of Modern History at Cambridge until 1997.
He was editor of The Historical Journal from 1971 until 1975. From 1984 until 1987 he was a member of the council of the Royal Historical Society. In 1989 he was elected a fellow of the British Academy.
- England and Italy, 1859-60 (London: Nelson,1961).
- From Castlereagh to Gladstone, 1815-1885 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1969).
- Joseph II, Volume I: In the Shadow of Maria Theresa, 1741-1780 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
- Prosperity and Plunder: European Catholic Monasteries in the Age of Revolution, 1650–1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
- Enlightenment and Reform in 18th-Century Europe (I.B. Tauris, 2005).
- Joseph II, Volume II: Against the World, 1780–1790 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
- International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004 (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 129.
- T. C. W. Blanning, Joseph II (London: Routledge, 2015), p. vii.
- Profile, British Academy, retrieved 14 July 2018.