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Richard Bruce Wernham, FBA (11 October 1906 – 17 April 1999) was an English historian of Elizabethan England. After his death The Times called him "the leading historian of English foreign policy in the 16th century".[1]

Wernham, the son of a farmer, was educated at Newbury Grammar School and Exeter College, Oxford, where he achieved a first in modern history in 1927.[1] In 1930 he was appointed a temporary assistant at the Public Record Office as part of a scheme designed to help young scholars achieve archival knowledge and editorial experience in preparation for a career in academia.[1] He was appointed editor of the State Papers foreign series and edited its successor, the List and Analysis of State Papers.[1] In 1934 Wernham was elected Fellow of Trinity College, which he would hold until 1951.[2]

In 1939 he married Isobel MacMillan, with whom he had a daughter.[1] During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force at the photographic interpretation unit at Medmenham in Buckinghamshire, where his main duty was in identifying appropriate landing sites for Special Operations Executive agents.[1]

Wernham was Professor of Modern History and Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford from 1951 until 1972.[3]

In his 1984 work, After the Armada, Wernham argued that the strain of an expensive Continental war was a factor that helped pave the way for the English Civil War.[1] In 1997 he was elected to the British Academy.[1]


  • "The Disgrace of William Davison", The English Historical Review, Vol. 46, No. 184 (Oct., 1931), pp. 632–636.
  • "Queen Elizabeth and the Siege of Rouen, 1591", Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 15 (1932), pp. 163–179.
  • (editor), Calendar of State Papers, Foreign Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth. Vol. XXII: July–December 1588 (London: Stationery Office, 1936).
  • "Queen Elizabeth and the Portugal Expedition of 1589", The English Historical Review, Vol. 66, No. 258 (Jan., 1951), pp. 1–26.
  • "Queen Elizabeth and the Portugal Expedition of 1589 (Continued)", The English Historical Review, Vol. 66, No. 259 (Apr., 1951), pp. 194–218.
  • Before the Armada: The Emergence of the English Nation, 1485-1588 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1966).
  • (editor), The New Cambridge Modern History. III. The Counter-Reformation and the Price Revolution (London: Cambridge University Press, 1968).
  • "Christopher Marlowe at Flushing in 1592", The English Historical Review, Vol. 91, No. 359 (Apr., 1976), pp. 344–345.
  • The Making of Elizabethan Foreign Policy, 1558-1603 (University of California Press, 1980).
  • After the Armada: Elizabethan England and the Struggle for Western Europe, 1588-1595 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).
  • The Expedition of Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake to Spain and Portugal, 1589 (Aldershot: Temple Smith, 1989).
  • The Return of the Armadas. The Last Years of the Elizabethan War against Spain, 1595-1603 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h 'Professor Bruce Wernham', The Times (16 June 1999), p. 23.
  2. ^ Marshall, P.J., ed. (20 January 2005). "Richard Bruce Wernham 1906–1999". Proceedings of the British Academy. Oxford University Press. 124: 378. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  3. ^ Oxford University Gazette