Paul Addison

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Paul Addison
Born(1943-05-03)3 May 1943
Died21 January 2020(2020-01-21) (aged 76)
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Alma mater University of Oxford

Paul Addison FRSE (3 May 1943–21 January 2020) was a British historian known for his research on the political history of Britain during the Second World War and the post-war period. Addison was part of the first generation of academic historians to study the conflict and is most notable for The Road to 1945 (1975) which traced the origins of the post-war consensus into the wartime period.


Early life

Paul Addison was born in Whittington, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire on 3 May 1943. His father was a Native American solder in the United States Army who was posted in the country as part of the preparations for the "Second Front" during the Second World War. He had no contact with Addison after his birth. He was instead brought up by his mother, Pauline Wilson Walker, who served as a Land Girl during the conflict. [1]

Addison studied at the University of Oxford. He completed his undergraduate degree at Pembroke College before moving to Nuffield College as a postgraduate. Along with his contemporary Angus Calder (1942–2008), he was among the first of a new generation of academic historians to examine the history of the Second World War critically without having personally experienced it. His doctoral studies addressed political opposition to the Churchill war ministry and was supervised by A.J.P. Taylor. Addison gained a D.Phil in 1971. [1]

The Road to 1945

Addison's first book was The Road to 1945, published by Jonathan Cape in 1975. It has been described as "a landmark in the writing of contemporary history". [1] It followed the publication of Calder's influential The People's War (1969) but focussed on the political history and particularly the change in British politics during the Second World War that lead to the Labour Party's landslide victory in the 1945 general election and the emergence of the post-war consensus. He wrote:

All three parties went to the polls in 1945 committed to principles of social and economic reconstruction which their leaders had endorsed as members of the Coalition. A massive new middle ground had emerged in politics. [...] When Labour swept to victory in 1945 the new consensus fell, like a branch of ripe plums, into the lap of Mr Attlee.

Addison argued that a broad political consensus had emerged during the Second World War in both Conservative and Labour parties which converged on the need for managed economy, limited nationalisation, and welfare state. The Road to 1945 was influential in defining the post-war consensus and has sparked further discussions about the degree of convergence.

Later work

Addison lectured at Pembroke College before moving to the University of Edinburgh in 1967. He remained at the university for most of his career. He published several further works on British politics during the wartime and post-war periods. These included two noted biographies of Winston Churchill, namely Churchill on the Home Front (1992) and Churchill: The Unexpected Hero (2005). [1]

From 1996, he was director of the Centre for Second World War Studies. He retired in 2005 and became a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2006. [1] His students included the future prime minister Gordon Brown. [1]


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Further reading