Peter Hennessy is an English historian and academic specialising in the history of government. Since 1992, he has been Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary University of London.
He was born in Edmonton, the youngest child of William G. Hennessy by his marriage to Edith (Wood-Johnson) Hennessy
Hennessy attended the nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, and on Sundays he went to St Mary Magdalene church, where he was an altar boy. He was educated at St Benedict’s School, an independent school in Ealing, West London. When his father’s job led the family to move to the Cotswolds, he attended Marling School, a grammar school in Stroud, Gloucestershire. He went on to study at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a BA in 1969 and a PhD in 1990. Hennessy was a Kennedy Memorial Scholar at Harvard University from 1971 to 1972.
Hennessy went on to work as a journalist during the 1970s and 1980s.
He went on to co-found the Institute of Contemporary British History in 1986.
From 1992 to 2000, Hennessy was professor of contemporary history at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. From 1994 to 1997, he gave public lectures as Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College, London. From 2001, he has been Attlee professor of contemporary British history at Queen Mary.
Books in order of publication:
Cabinet – 1986
Whitehall – 1988
Never Again: Britain 1945-1951 – 1992
The Hidden Wiring: Unearthing the British Constitution – 1995
The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders Since 1945 – 1998
The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War – 2002
Having it So Good: Britain in the Fifties – 2006
Cabinets and the Bomb – 2007
Distilling the Frenzy: Writing the History of Our Times – 2012
The Secret State: Preparing For The Worst 1945 – 2010 – 2014
The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service Since 1945 – 2015
The Power of Civil Servants – 2018
Winds of Change: Britain in the Early Sixties – 2019
A Duty of Care: Britain Before and After Covid – 2022