Jane Ridley

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Jane Ridley
Born (1953-05-15) 15 May 1953 (age 67)
Northumberland, England
Education Cranborne Chase School, Wiltshire
Alma mater St Hugh's College, Oxford
Nuffield College, Oxford
OccupationProfessor of modern history, biographer, author
Employer University of Buckingham

Jane Ridley (born 15 May 1953) is an English historian, biographer, author and broadcaster, and Professor of Modern History at the University of Buckingham.


Ridley won the Duff Cooper Prize in 2002 for The Architect and his Wife, a biography of her great-grandfather Edwin Lutyens.

Early life

Born in Northumberland in the north east of England on 15 May 1953, Ridley is the eldest daughter of the former Conservative Cabinet minister Nicholas Ridley (1929–1993) and a granddaughter of Matthew, 3rd Viscount Ridley, by his marriage to Ursula Lutyens. Her father married Clayre Campbell (1927–2015), a daughter of Alistair, 4th Baron Stratheden and Campbell. They had three daughters, Jane (1953), Susanna (1955), and Jessica (1957), and were divorced in 1974. [1] Her great-grandmother Lady Emily Bulwer-Lytton (1874–1964), who dismayed her parents by marrying the architect Lutyens, was a daughter of the Earl of Lytton, Viceroy of India in the 1870s. [2] His parents were the novelists Edward and Rosina Bulwer Lytton. Her cousins include the economist Sir Adam Ridley. [3]

Ridley was educated at Cranborne Chase School, an independent boarding school for girls, since closed, then occupying New Wardour Castle, near the village of Tisbury in Wiltshire, [4] and later at St Hugh's College, Oxford, as an Exhibitioner in History. She took a first class honours degree in 1974, then was a research student at Nuffield College until 1978, graduating D. Phil. in 1985 with a thesis entitled Leadership and Management in the Conservative Party in Parliament 1906–1914. [5]

Academic career and work

In 1979, Ridley was appointed a lecturer in history at the University of Buckingham, where she was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1994, to Reader in 2002, to Senior Tutor responsible for student discipline the next year, and finally to Professor in 2007. At Buckingham she continues to serve as Senior Tutor and to teach history and has been in charge of the university's Master of Arts course in biography since establishing it in 1996. [5] This was the first such postgraduate course. [6]

Ridley's first book was The Letters of Edwin Lutyens (1985), a collection of her great-grandfather's letters, edited jointly with her mother, Clayre Percy. [7] She combined social history with her sport of fox hunting to produce Fox hunting: a history (1990), which begins with the words "Fox hunting isn't strictly necessary." [8]

In 1995, Ridley's The Young Disraeli was published, dealing with Benjamin Disraeli's early years. She disputes that he should be considered the father of one-nation conservatism, writing that "Disraeli didn't use the expression and nor did he want to create a classless society... The legend of Disraeli was created largely by the Conservative party, which needed a hero on whom to pin its ideas about making the party electable in a democracy." [9]

Ridley's biography of Lutyens, The Architect and his Wife, won the Duff Cooper Prize for 2002. [10]

In 2008, Ridley was given a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to work on her biography of King Edward VII, [5] and this was finally published as Bertie: A Life of Edward VII in 2012. In reviewing the work for The Spectator , A. N. Wilson called it "profoundly learned and a cracking good read" and gave his opinion that "After this irreverent new life of Edward VII, royal biography will never be the same again." [11]

Personal life

In 1986, Ridley married Stephen Francis Thomas, a writer, the younger son of Sir William Cooper Thomas, by his marriage to Freida Dunbar Whyte. They have two sons, Toby (born 1988) and Humphrey (born 1991). [12]

Ridley is a member of the committee of the London Library and lives in Dorset Square, Marylebone. [13]

Major publications


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  1. Patrick Cosgrave, 'Ridley, Nicholas, Baron Ridley of Liddesdale (1929–1993)', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004); online edition, accessed 6 March 2014 (subscription site)
  2. Michael Barker, Sir Edwin Lutyens (2005), pp. 12–13
  3. L. G. Pine, The New Extinct Peerage 1884–1971: Containing Extinct, Abeyant, Dormant and Suspended Peerages with Genealogies and Arms (London: Heraldry Today, 1972), p. 16
  4. Cranborne Chase School Register, 1967 (Cranborne Chase School, Autumn 1967)
  5. 1 2 3 Professor Jane Ridley at buckingham.ac.uk, accessed 6 March 2014
  6. Sally Cline, Carole Angier, Life Writing: A Writers' and Artists' Companion (2013), p. xv
  7. Andrew Hopkins, Gavin Stamp, Lutyens Abroad: The Work of Sir Edwin Lutyens Outside the British Isles (The British Academy, 2002, ISBN   0904152375), p. 183: "Jane Ridley is Senior Lecturer in history at Buckingham University and a great-granddaughter of Lutyens. She published The Letters of Edwin Lutyens (1985), which she co-edited with her mother Clayre Percy..."
  8. Andrew Linzey, Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN   0195379772), p. 94: "Jane Ridley, herself a hunter, in her notable social history titled Fox Hunting, begins her first page with the words "Fox hunting isn't strictly necessary."
  9. Debunking the Dizzy legend in The Tablet dated 17 August 2013, p. 19, online at thetablet.co.uk, accessed 7 March 2014
  10. 1 2 Past Winners at theduffcooperprize.org, accessed 6 March 2014
  11. A. N. Wilson, Bertie: A Life of Edward VII, by Jane Ridley dated 18 August 2012 at spectator.co.uk, accessed 7 March 2012
  12. Jane Ridley at ThePeerage.com, which cites Charles Mosley, ed., Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 3 (2003), p. 3,883; accessed 9 March 2014
  13. Ridley, Jane 1953– at encyclopedia.com, accessed 6 March 2014