John Burrow (1935-2009)


Professor John Wyon Burrow (m. 1954) was born at Southsea on June 4 1935 to parents who, while not well-educated themselves, encouraged his intellectual interests. He grew up in Devon, an only child, and went to School in Exeter, from where he won a scholarship to Christ's College, Cambridge, to read History. There, he became a protégé of the 18th-century historian (and later Master of Christ's) John Plumb, graduated with a double First, took a doctorate and was awarded a research fellowship at the college.

In 1965 he took up a post at the then new University of East Anglia. Having taught at Sussex University between 1969 and 1995, he ended his academic career as Professor of European Thought at Oxford, becoming a fellow of Balliol College. In the 1970's whilst at Sussex, John helped to establish both BA and master's degrees in intellectual history, making Sussex the first, and for many years the only, university to offer such courses.

John won the Wolfson Prize for A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past (1981) and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1986. Other major books include The Crisis of Reason: European Thought 1848-1914 (2000) and most recently his vivid and highly readable account of history writing over the centuries - A History of Histories (2007), which brought John's gifts to the attention of a wider audience.  He was elected to the Royal Historical Society (1971), and awarded an honorary degree by the University of Bologna in 1987; he held visiting posts are the University of California, Berkeley, the Austrlian National University, the Univesity of British Columbia, Williams College, Massachussetts, and All Souls College, Oxford.

He will be known to many members of Christ's for his chapter 'The Age of Reform' in the College history, Christ's: A Cambridge College over Five Centuries (2005).