Alfred Duggan

Alfred Duggan (born Alfredo León Duggan; 1903–1964) was an English historian and archaeologist, and a well-known historical novelist in the 1950s. His novels are known for meticulous historical research.


Though brought up in Britain, he was born Alfredo León Duggan in Lomas de Zamora, Buenos Aires, Argentina, to a family of wealthy landowners of Irish descent. His family moved to Britain when he was two years old. His father Alfredo Huberto Duggan, a first generation Irish Argentinian, was appointed in 1905 to the Argentine Legation in London, and died in 1915. In 1917, his mother, the Alabama-born Grace Elvira Hinds, daughter of the U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro, became the second wife of Lord Curzon, the former Viceroy of India. Duggan and his brother Hubert (1904–1943) were brought up in Britain at Curzon's seats, and were educated first at Wixenford[1] and Eton. Thereafter Alfred went to Balliol College at Oxford, where he became acquainted with Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh.[2] He often features in Waugh's letters and diaries of the period, and his South American background may have influenced the character of Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited, though Waugh described the character as "2/3 Brian [Howard] and 1/3 Harold Acton. People think it was all Harold, who is a much sweeter and saner man [than Howard]."[3]

Alfred Duggan kept a car while at Oxford, one of the few students with sufficient funding and influence to do so; the University Statutes prohibited undergraduate members of the University from keeping a car within a certain distance of the town centre at Carfax, and so Duggan kept his vehicle, an early Rolls-Royce, just outside the limit of the jurisdiction of the University Proctors, and would regularly drive himself and his friends to and from London during the social season. At Oxford he was part of the Hypocrites' Club.[4]

During 1938–1941, Duggan served with the London Irish Rifles, with active service in the Norwegian Campaign. For the rest of the Second World War he worked in an aeroplane factory.

In 1953, Duggan married Laura Hill, and they went to live in Ross-on-Wye, where he died in April 1964.[5] According to a review by John Derbyshire, Duggan "in later years, his inheritance gone... adjusted philosophically to his changed circumstances, living a bookish and domestic life utterly at odds with the extravagant dissipation of his youth. He seems to have been a devoted husband and parent, and a loyal friend."[6]


Duggan's novels are known for being based on meticulous historical research. He also wrote popular histories of Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages. Knight with Armour was his first novel, written in 1946. He visited practically every place and battlefield described in the book, because he was also an archaeologist, having worked on excavations in Istanbul during the 1930s.

Unlike many historical novelists, he does not idealise his subjects. A few of the characters are noble, some rather nasty, many mixed in their motives. Some of the novels can be seen as funny, in a dry noir style. A recurring theme is the slow moral corruption of a character who begins with an exalted opinion of himself as noble, wise and brave but who gradually compromises himself morally.

Most of the stories are told from the viewpoint of the ruling class, sometimes the ruler and sometimes a knight or noble. In English history, his novels show a general approval of the Norman conquest.


Duggan's novel Three's Company (1958) was praised by Rex Warner, who stated, "Mr. Duggan has succeeded in making him (Lepidus) a modern character, but he has also firmly placed him in his own age. Three's Company is a most competent piece of work, scholarly, alive, and suggestive." [7] In an introduction to Duggan's novel Count Bohemond (1964), Evelyn Waugh said Duggan's "literary style remained constant. It is as crisp and clear in this posthumous novel as in his first.... There is no groping in Alfred's work. At the age of forty-seven he published his first book. It was lucid and masterly, absolutely free of affectation or ostentation." [8]



Non fictionEdit

  • Thomas Becket of Canterbury (1952)
  • Julius Caesar: A Great Life in Brief (1955)
  • My Life for My Sheep: Thomas a Becket (1955)
  • He Died Old: Mithradates Eupator, King of Pontus (1958)
  • Devil's Brood: The Angevin Family (1957)
  • Look at Castles (1960). For young readers
  • The Castle Book (1961)
  • Look At Churches (1961)
  • Growing Up in Thirteenth Century England (1962)
  • The Story of the Crusades 1097–1291 (1963)
  • The Romans (1965). For young readers
  • Growing up with the Norman Conquest (1965)
  • The Falcon And the Dove: A Life of Thomas Becket of Canterbury (1971)


  1. ^ Grace Curzon, Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston, Reminiscences (1955), p. 45.
  2. ^ John Derbyshire "Alfred Duggan's Past" New Criterion February 2005.
  3. ^ Waugh, Evelyn; Edited by Mark Amory (1980). The Letters of Evelyn Waugh. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 505. ISBN 1-85799-245-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "AP The Anthony Powell Newsletter 65" (PDF). anthonypowell. Retrieved 21 January 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ The Spectator (10 July 1964).
  6. ^ The New Criterion, February 2005 Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  7. ^ Rex Warner, "Two Not So Noble Romans", The Saturday Review, 30 August 1958, p. 11.
  8. ^ Evelyn Waugh, "Preface", in Alfred Duggan, Count Bohemond (Reprint). London : Cassell Military, 2002, pp. 5–7. ISBN 9780304362738

External linksEdit