Ben Pimlott


Ben Pimlott

Professor Ben Pimlott (4 July, 1945 - 10 April 2004) was a leading historian of the post-war period in Britain. He made a substantial contribution to the literary genre of political biography.

Educated at Rokeby school, in Wimbledon, south-west London, Marlborough College and Worcester College, Oxford, where he took a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and a BPhil in politics. In 1970, he was appointed as a lecturer in the politics department of the University of Newcastle, where he also took his PhD. In the February General Election of 1974, Pimlott contested Arundel on behalf of the Labour Party, then Cleveland and Whitby in the October General Election also that year. Having lost on both occasions, he also contested the 1979 election, after which he left the North East to take up a research post at the London School of Economics. In 1987 he became Political Editor of the "New Statesman" and the following year took on the post of Professor of Contemporary History at Birkbeck College, London. In 1996 his works were recognised with a Fellowship of the British Academy.

Aside from his attempts at a Parliamentary career in the 1970s, not to mention his tenure as Chairman of the Fabian Society in 1993/1994, Pimlott is best remembered for his considerable body of work, mostly in the field of political biography. His works include accounts of the lives of Hugh Dalton (1985), Harold Wilson (1992), and a study of Queen Elizabeth II (1996). His study of Dalton won him the Whitbread Prize. His other books include "Labour And The Left In The 1930s" (1977), "The Trade Unions In British Politics" (with Chris Cook, 1982), "Fabian Essays In Socialist Thought" (1984), "The Alternative" (with Tony Wright and Tony Flower, 1990), "Frustrate Their Knavish Tricks" (1994) and "Governing London" (with Nirmala Rao, 2002).

Many of Pimlott's theses have stood the test of time, even if they were marginally controversial when originally published. His studies of the 1930s Labour left, the life of Harold Wilson and the constitutional effect of the monarchy in post-war Britain are said to have made his reputation as a biographer and even bestowed some additional credibility upon the subjects, all of which have received critical accounts under the pen of others. Pimlott sincerely believed and argued consistently that the post-war consensus in British politics was a veritable red-herring.

At the time of his death from leukemia in 2004, he was Warden of Goldsmiths, University of London (since 1998). He was married to Jean Seaton, who lectures on communications and the media at the University of Westminster. In 2005 the college named a major new Will Alsop-designed building on its New Cross site in his honour and also the same year the Fabian Society and "The Guardian" inaugurated the first annual Ben Pimlott Prize for Political Writing.

External links

* [http://education.guardian.co.uk/obituary/story/0,12212,1190392,00.html "Guardian" UK obituary]
* [http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/artsandhumanities/story/0,12241,1190390,00.html "Guardian" (UK) news story]


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