John Vincent (historian)

John Russell Vincent (20 December 1937 18 March 2021)[1] was a British historian and Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge.

Early life and education

Vincent was educated at Bedales School and Christ's College, Cambridge.

Academic career

Vincent joined the University of Bristol in 1970 as Professor of Modern History, from 1984 Professor of History, until his retirement in 2002 when he became Emeritus Professor.[1] He subsequently became Visiting Professor at the University of East Anglia.


In the 1980s, Vincent was a columnist for The Times and The Sun newspapers, the later association ended in 1987. Students from the University of Bristol disrupted some of his lectures in 1986 and forced him to take two terms' unpaid leave.[1] He continued to contribute articles to many other publications, including book reviews and articles for New Society, the New Statesman, The Listener, The Spectator, the London Review of Books, The Observer, The Sunday Times, and The Guardian.[2]


In his book on historiography, An Intelligent Person's Guide to History, Vincent observed that if we went solely by the documentary standards most prized by modern historians nothing would be more historically certain than the existence of actual witches in the Middle Ages, given the large volume of solemnly-sworn testimony available in original documents. In 1995, Oxford University Press refused at the last minute to publish a book on history by Vincent, having commissioned and overseen much of its writing.[3] A reader's report had described it as being "a sad and bitter diatribe" with a "general absence of the appreciation of the project of social history". Peter Oborne later wrote that it is "one of the most brilliant works of British historiography since the war".[1]


Vincent died on 9 March 2021, aged 83.


  • Vincent, John, The Formation of the Liberal Party, 1857–68 (Constable, 1966; second edition, 1980).
  • Vincent, John (1967). Pollbooks: How Victorians Voted. Cambridge University Press.
  • Vincent, John; Cooke (eds.), A. B. (1971). Lord Carlingford's Journal. Oxford University Press.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Vincent, John; Stenton (eds.), M. (1971). McCalmont's Parliamentary Poll Book 1832–1918. Harvester.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Cooke, Alistair Basil; Vincent, John (1974). Governing Passion: Cabinet Government and Party Politics in Britain, 1885–86. Harvester.
  • Vincent (ed.), John (1978). Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party: The Political Journals of Lord Stanley 1849–69. Harvester.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Vincent, John (1979). Gladstone and Ireland. Raleigh Lecture. British Academy.
  • Vincent (ed.), John (1984). The Crawford Papers: The Journals of David Lindsay, Twenty-Seventh Earl of Crawford and Tenth Earl of Balcarres during the years 1892 to 1940. Manchester University Press.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Vincent, John (1987). The Thatcher Governments, 1979–1987' in Peter Hennessy and Anthony Seldon (eds.), Ruling Performance: British Government from Attlee to Thatcher. Blackwell.
  • Vincent, John (1990). Disraeli. Oxford Paperbacks.
  • Vincent, John (2005). An Intelligent Person's Guide to History. Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd.
  • Vincent (ed.), John (1995). The Derby Diaries 1869–1878. Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Vincent, John (1996). 1874–1880' in Anthony Seldon (ed.), How Tory Governments Fall. Fontana Press. pp. 159–187.
  • John Vincent (ed.), The Derby Diaries 1878–1893 (Leopard's Head Press, 2003).