||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2012)|
24 January 1935 |
|Education||Eton College, Magdalene College, Cambridge, Yale University|
|Known for||University Challenge|
Gascoigne was born in London and won scholarships to both Eton College and Magdalene College, Cambridge (1955), where he read English literature. While at Magdalene, he wrote a musical, Share My Lettuce, which was produced in London in 1957 by Michael Codron, and performed by Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams (music by Patrick Gowers and Keith Statham). He then spent a year as a Commonwealth Fund scholar at Yale University (1958–59). After National Service in the Grenadier Guards he became a theatre critic. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (elected 1976). He has served as a trustee of the National Gallery, a trustee of the Tate Gallery, a member of the council of the National Trust, and as a member of the board of directors of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. His uncle is Sir Julian Gascoigne who was in charge of the Household Division during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
University Challenge 
He came to fame as the first presenter of the popular television quiz show University Challenge, first airing in 1962, based on the US series College Bowl. He held the position for 25 years, stepping down in 1987. Although he has written several books, mostly works of history, and presented other television programmes, his name is permanently connected with University Challenge for many viewers of the show.
Television and books 
Gascoigne is the author of Murgatroyd's Empire, a 1972 satirical novel concerning an entrepreneur who finds an island of pygmies, and trades them arms for treasure, recreating the development of European medieval weaponry and armour.
In 1977, Gascoigne wrote and presented The Christians, a thirteen-hour television documentary series on the history of Christianity, produced by Granada Television and broadcast on ITV. He wrote a companion book, under the same title, with photography by his wife, Christina Gascoigne, published by Jonathan Cape.
He wrote Quest for the Golden Hare, a 1983 account of the internationally publicized treasure hunt associated with the publication in 1979 of Kit Williams' book, Masquerade. On 8 August 1979, Gascoigne was witness to the burial by Williams of a unique jeweled, solid gold hare pendant in an earthenware jar "somewhere in Britain". The book documents the search and a scandal associated with finding it.
In 1987, Gascoigne presented a documentary series of six 30 minute programmes on Victorian history, Victorian Values, which looked at how Victorian society put in place the infrastructure of the modern welfare state, also produced by Granada Television.
He was the writer and presenter for the TV series The Great Moghuls, a study of the Mughal Empire of India. The series was also accompanied by a book of the same name, again with photographs by his wife, and has been reprinted numerous times.
Selected publications 
- 1968: World Theatre: An Illustrated History, Ebury Press
- 19??: A Brief History of Christianity, revised edition, 2003, Robinson Publishing (ISBN 1-84119-710-6)
- 2003: A Brief History of the Dynasties of China (ISBN 1-84119-791-2) - originally published as The Treasures and Dynasties of China (1973)
- 1971: The Great Moghuls, photographs by Christina Gascoigne, Jonathan Cape, London; Harper & Row, New York
- 1973: The Treasures and Dynasties of China, photographs by Christina Gascoigne and Derrick Witty, Jonathan Cape ( ISBN 0-224-00925-7 )
- 1973: The Heyday (novel), Jonathan Cape
- 1974: Ticker Khan: A Fable
- 1977: The Christians, photographs by Christina Gascoigne, Jonathan Cape
- 1981: Why the Rope Went Tight
- 1982: Fearless Freddy's Sunken Treasure
- 1982: Fearless Freddy's Magic Wish
- 1983: Quest for the Golden Hare, Jonathan Cape (ISBN 0-224-02116-8
- 1986: Cod Streuth, Jonathan Cape (ISBN 0-224-02388-8)
- 1986: How to Identify Prints: A Complete Guide to Manual and Mechanical Processes from Woodcut to Inkjet, Thames & Hudson; revised 2nd edition 2004(ISBN 0-500-28480-6)
- 1998: Book of Amazing Facts
- 1993: Encyclopaedia of Britain: The A-Z of Britain's Past and Present, Macmillan Publishers (ISBN 0-333-54764-0)
- 1997: Milestones in Colour Printing 1457-1859: with a bibliography of Nelson Prints (The Sandars Lectures in Bibliography)
- A Brief History of the First World War
- A Brief History of the Second World War
- 1998: A Brief History of the Great Moghuls: India's most flamboyant rulers, Running Press (ISBN 0-78671-040-3)
- 2011: The Maya, Aztecs, Incas and Conquistadors: a Brief History
Influence on popular culture 
In the Young Ones episode "Bambi" he is parodied by Griff Rhys Jones as "Bambi Gascoigne" (with considerable emphasis being placed on the resemblance of his name to the Disney character), and several years previously Griff Rhys Jones played Gascoigne in a sketch on Not the Nine O'Clock News. He was also portrayed by actor Mark Gatiss in the 2006 film Starter for 10.
In the early 1970s, comedian Billy Connolly poked fun at Gascoigne's unusual name in his song "Talkin' Blues (What's in a Name)".
In 1998, as part of BBC2's Red Dwarf night, he presented a special "Red Dwarf" edition of Universe Challenge between the cast and fans of the show. The show begins with actor Chris Barrie impersonating host Jeremy Paxman, before being blown up as Gascoigne enters with a mock space-shotgun to much applause. (The fans won by a narrow margin.)
In 1974, while impersonating Richard Attenborough in the last Monty Python television episode, Michael Palin sought out the legendary 'Walking tree of Dahomey', but instead happened upon "one of Africa's many stationary trees, Arborus Bamber Gascoignus". His name also appears in one version of the Monty Python "Lumberjack Song" when Michael Palin sings of the "Quercus maximus Bamber Gascoigneii", and in the Python song "I Like Traffic Lights" the singer, Terry Jones, points out that his name is not Bamber.
Current work 
In recent years, he has established an online history encyclopaedia, called History World. His latest project is TimeSearch which presents multiple searchable timelines collected from various websites.
- Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 368. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
- biographical sketch at the Magdalene College alumni website
- "HistoryWorld". HistoryWorld. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- BBC - Special Coronation Edition
- biographical sketch at HistoryWorld website
- "Bamber Gascoigne - UKGameshows". www.ukgameshows.com. Archived from the original on 24 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
- "University Challenge - UKGameshows". www.ukgameshows.com. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
- "Mark Gatiss credits". London: Curtis Brown. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Episode 4.6 - Gorgon's Wood". Retrieved 2009-02-07.
- "History and Timelines". HistoryWorld. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
- Timesearch website
- Start the Week, BBC Radio 4, 12 March 2007
|University Challenge host