Professor Jon Parry

Professor Emeritus of Modern British History
Director of Studies in Part II History, Pembroke College
Professor Jon Parry

I am a historian of British politics and political ideas in the nineteenth century.  I taught in the Faculty from 1992 until I retired in 2023.  The main aim of my work has been to understand better how the British political class thought about the task of governing the country, and defending its international interests, at a time of great change. 

My first three books, and a number of subsequent articles, investigated the governing strategies of British Liberalism, which seemed to me not to have been properly understood by those who prioritise a few abstract thinkers and their views on economic policy in particular.  I also developed an interest in Conservatism, especially as articulated by Benjamin Disraeli, on whom I have written a short book and two articles.  I have a side interest in British constitutional practice and identity, especially the history of monarchy.

I am now writing a short overview of the history of Liberalism as a political idea in Britain, from 1830 to the present.

My third book, The Politics of Patriotism, sought to explain British politics in its European context.  It argued that foreign policy was of fundamental importance to domestic politics, but also that domestic political values shaped debates about British foreign policy.  I have also written some survey articles on the theme of Britain and Europe, two yet to be published.

In 2022, I published Promised Lands: The British and the Ottoman Middle East.  This book aims to explain how and why nineteenth-century policy-makers developed an interest in the lands between Europe and India that we now call the Middle East, and what they tried to make of them.  There is little about domestic politics in it and much more about geopolitical considerations, as well as history, religion and diplomacy.  I see it as a work of British history, devoted to understanding British behaviour in a historically neglected area; it does not claim to be a history of the Middle East itself.

In my next project, I hope to explore another part of the nineteenth-century British world, the North Atlantic, and particularly the idea and the reality of British North America (Canada) as a political space.

I also write frequently for the London Review of Books.


British domestic and international governing strategies in the nineteenth century.


Tags & Themes


Pembroke College
Cambridge CB2 1RF


Key Publications

  • Promised Lands: the British and the Ottoman Middle East (Princeton, 2022)

  • The Politics of Patriotism: English Liberalism, national identity and Europe 1830-1886 (Cambridge, 2006)

  • The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain (Yale, 1993)

  • Democracy and Religion: Gladstone and the Liberal party, 1867-1875 (Cambridge, 1986)


  • Benjamin Disraeli (Oxford, 2007)

  • 'Disraeli, the east and religion: Tancred in context', English Historical Review (2017)

  • 'Disraeli and England', Historical Journal (2000)


  • ‘Palmerston and Russell’, in Palmerston Studies, ed. D. Brown and M. Taylor (2 vols., Hartley Institute, Southampton, 2007)

  • ‘Lord John Russell, first Earl Russell’, in Biographical Dictionary of British Prime Ministers, ed. R. Eccleshall and G. Walker (Routledge, 1998)

  • ‘Past and future in the later career of Lord John Russell’, in History and biography: essays in honour of Derek Beales, ed. T.C.W. Blanning and David Cannadine (Cambridge, 1996)


  • ‘Gladstone’s first government: a policy overview’, Journal of Liberal History (2018-19)

  • 'Christian socialism, class collaboration and British public life after 1848', in The 1848 Revolutions and European political thought, ed. D. Moggach and G. Stedman Jones (Cambridge, 2018)

  • '1867 and the rule of wealth', in Shooting Niagara - and after?  The Second Reform Act and its world, ed. Robert Saunders (2017)

  • 'The decline of institutional reform in nineteenth-century Britain', in Structures and Transformations in Modern British History, ed. D . Feldman and J. Lawrence (Cambridge, 2011)

  • ‘Liberalism and liberty’, in Liberty and Authority in Victorian Britain, ed. P. Mandler (Oxford, 2007)

  • 'Whig monarchy, Whig nation: Crown, politics and representativeness, 1880-2000', in The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the present, ed. A. Olechnowicz (Cambridge, 2007)

  • 'The impact of Napoleon III on British politics, 1851-1880', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (2001)

  • Parliament and the Church, 1529-1960 (ed. with Stephen Taylor, 2000)


  • ‘Henry Layard and the British Parliament: Outsider and Expert’, in Rethinking Layard 1817–2017: Proceedings of the Conference held in Venice, 5th-6th March 2018, ed. Stefania Ermidoro and Cecilia Riva (Venice, 2020)

  • 'From the Thirty-Nine Articles to the Thirty-Nine Steps: reflections on the thought of John Buchan', in Public and Private Doctrine: essays presented to Maurice Cowling, ed. M. Bentley (Cambridge, 1993)