Denis William Brogan

Sir Denis William Brogan (born 11 August 1900, Glasgow; died 5 January 1974, Cambridge), was a Scottish author and historian.

Early life and educationEdit

Denis Brogan was born in Glasgow, the eldest son of Denis Brogan (1856–1934), a master tailor, and Elizabeth Toner. His father hailed originally from County Donegal, and was a liberal-minded pro-Boer and Irish nationalist who, at one point, served as head of the Glasgow branch of the United Irish League, while his mother was a sister of John Toner, Bishop of Dunkeld.[1][2] The younger Brogan was educated at St Columcille's Roman Catholic School, Rutherglen, and Rutherglen Academy.[3] Having initially been cajoled by his parents to study medicine at the University of Glasgow, he switched to an arts degree following a series of low marks in his examinations, graduating MA Hons. in 1923.[4] Brogan subsequently studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a further degree in history in 1925. He then spent an additional year studying American politics at Harvard University on a Rockefeller Research Fellowship.[5]

Brogan had three brothers, of whom the best known was the conservative journalist Colm Brogan (1902–1977). His other two siblings, Willie and Diarmuid, both taught at St Mungo's Academy in the East End of Glasgow.


Upon returning from Harvard, Brogan found short-lived employment in London as a journalist at The Times. He then chose to enter academia, acquiring successive teaching posts at University College, London, and the London School of Economics.[5] It was while at the latter institution that Brogan published his seminal work The American Political System (1933), which was later described in The Guardian as "in many ways replac[ing] the classic work of Lord Bryce on American politics."[2] According to Herbert Butterfield, the left-wing economist Harold Laski endowed Brogan with the "both the stimulus and the patronage" necessary to write the book.[4]

In 1934 Brogan was elected a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Five years later, in 1939, he moved to the University of Cambridge to take up the chair in political science, becoming a fellow of Peterhouse; he remained there until his retirement in 1968.[5] Brogan became known for broadcast radio talks, chiefly on historical themes, and as a panellist on BBC Radio's Round Britain Quiz, where he affected a testy, hyperacademic persona. In 1963, he received a knighthood.[5][6][7][8]

Brogan appears to have had a working relationship with political scientist A. F. K. Organski; a copy of the latter's book World Politics (1958) in the Glasgow University Library contains the following handwritten note on the first blank page:

"To D.W. Brogan, In thanks for some delightful hours of talk, Kenneth Organski, New York, 11 Aug 1959". The book was presented to the library by Brogan.


Brogan died in Cambridge on 5 January 1974. He is buried in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.[9] His wife Olwen Phillis Francis (Lady Brogan), OBE, archaeologist and authority on Roman Libya and the mother of his four children - including the historian Hugh Brogan and journalist Patrick Brogan - is also buried in the same cemetery; she later became Olwen Hackett on her second marriage, when she married Charles Hackett.


  • The American Political System (1933) Excerpts
  • Proudhon (1934)
  • The Development of modern France, 1870-1939 (1940 and later editions)
  • Politics and Law in the United States (1941) Excerpts
  • The English People: Impressions and Observations (1943)
  • The American Character (1944)
  • French Personalities and Problems (1945) Excerpts
  • The Era of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1950)
  • The Price of Revolution (1951) [1]
  • Politics in America (1954)
  • The French Nation: from Napoleon to Pétain, 1814-1940 (1957)
  • America in the Modern World (1960)
  • American Aspects (1964)
  • Worlds in Conflict (1967)
  • France under the Republic (1974)[10]


  1. ^ Bernard Aspinwall, 'The Transatlantic Catholic Conservatism of Colm Brogan', Innes Review, 53:2 (2002), p. 208. doi:10.3366/inr.2002.53.2.201
  2. ^ a b 'Obituary: Sir Denis Brogan', The Guardian, 7 January 1974.
  3. ^ "BROGAN, Sir Denis". Who's Who. 2018 (online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  4. ^ a b Herbert Butterfield, 'Denis Brogan', Encounter, 1 April 1974.
  5. ^ a b c d "Brogan, Sir Denis William (1900–1974)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, September 2004. Retrieved 11 June 2018. (subscription required)
  6. ^ "Sir Denis Brogan". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  7. ^ "gb247-msgen1581 - Papers of Sir Denis William Brogan, 1900-1974, historian and political scientist". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Denis William Brogan". Archived from the original on 17 April 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  9. ^ Mark Goldie, A Guide to Churchill College, Cambridge (2009), pp. 62-3.
  10. ^ "D. W. Brogan (1900–1974)". Retrieved 13 March 2014.

External linksEdit