Alan Bullock, British historian, Died at 89

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Alan Louis Charles Bullock, Baron Bullock died on the 2nd of February 2004 at the age of 89, he was a British historian.

Born in Trowbridge in Wiltshire England on the 13th of December 1914 where his father worked as a gardener and a Unitarian preacher.

He was educated at Bradford Grammar School and Wadham College, Oxford, where he read classics and modern history. After graduating in 1938, he worked as a research assistant for Winston Churchill, who was writing his History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

During World War II, Bullock worked for the European Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Bullock published Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, the first comprehensive biography of Adolf Hitler, which he based on the transcripts of the Nuremberg Trials.

This book dominated Hitler scholarship for many years. The book characterised Hitler as an opportunistic machtpolitiker (“power politician”). In Bullock’s opinion, Hitler was a “mountebank”, an opportunistic adventurer devoid of principles, beliefs or scruples whose actions throughout his career were motivated only by a lust for power.

Bullock’s views led in the 1950s to a debate with Hugh Trevor-Roper who argued that Hitler did possess beliefs, albeit repulsive ones, and that his actions were motivated by them.

In 1945 he was appointed as a modern history fellow at New College. Over the next few years he worked on his first book, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1952).

Mark Frankland has argued that the book on Adolf Hitler “remains both a standard work and an absorbing piece of modern historical writing.

The book on which his reputation as a historian rests, it played to his strengths as a biographer who had the knack of penetrating the minds of others.”

This was followed by The Liberal Tradition from Fox to Keynes (1956) and a biography of Ernest Bevin, the trade union leader, The Life and Times of Ernest Bevin (1960).

In 1960 Bullock was appointed as founding master of St Catherine’s College, the only new college for both undergraduates and graduates built in Oxford University in the 20th century.

Mark Frankland claimed: “He was a powerfully built man, and some people found him domineering… He was Oxford’s first full-time vice-chancellor (1969-73), serving during a difficult period of student unrest.

His build, strong voice and irrepressible Yorkshire accent gave him an air of strength that was quite undonnish.

This served him well when it came to keeping unruly undergraduates within limits.” He was aware of this trait and once commented: “Bullock by name, and Bullock by nature.”

Bullock was knighted in 1972. Four years later, the Labor government of Harold Wilson made him a life peer; he took the title Baron Bullock of Leafield in the County of Oxfordshire.


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