Conrad Russell, 5th Earl Russell
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|The Right Honourable
The Earl Russell
|Lord Russell at the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference in Brighton, September 2003|
15 April 1937|
Harting, West Sussex
|Died||14 October 2004
London (Park Royal)
|Alma mater||Oxford University|
Conrad Sebastian Robert Russell, 5th Earl Russell (15 April 1937 – 14 October 2004) was a British historian and politician. His parents were the philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell and his third wife Patricia Russell. He was also a great-grandson of the 19th century British Whig Prime Minister Lord John Russell. He succeeded to the earldom on the death of his half-brother, John Russell, on 16 December 1987.
Educated at Eton and Merton College, Oxford, Conrad Russell was an academic historian working on 17th century British history, having extensively written and lectured on parliamentary struggles of the period. Russell was also a passionate advocate of liberalism, from a long family line of distinguished liberals.
Russell was a prominent historian on the origins of the English Civil War. His major works include Crisis of Parliaments: English history 1509–1660 (1971), Origins of the English Civil War (edited, 1973), Parliaments and English politics, 1621–1629 (1979), Unrevolutionary England, 1603–1642 (1990), and Fall of the British monarchies, 1637–1642 (1991). His work on early Stuart Parliaments was profoundly influenced by the work of Alan Everitt, who had argued that the English gentry were preoccupied with defending their positions in the localities rather than responding to the demands of the Crown. This no longer seems entirely plausible in the light of the work done by Richard Cust, Clive Holmes, Peter Lake and Christopher Thompson. Russell argued that the English civil war was much less a result of long term constitutional conflicts than had previously been thought, and that its origins are to be sought rather in the years immediately preceding the outbreak of war in 1642 and in the context of the problems of the multiple kingdoms of the British Isles, a hypothesis for which he was indebted to the pioneering study of H. G. Koenigsberger. This area is still being explored by historians like John Adamson and David Scott even if their detailed conclusions vary from those reached by Russell.
He was Lecturer (and later Reader) in History at Bedford College, University of London (now part of Royal Holloway), 1960–1979; Professor of History at Yale University, USA, 1979–1984; Astor Professor of British History at University College London, 1984–1990; and Professor of British History at King's College London from 1990 to his retirement in 2003. Russell's expectation that he would succeed Michael Howard as Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford was unfulfilled, partly because of doubts long-held in the university about his scholarship and partly because his political partisanship made him unacceptable for such a prestigious post.
As a young man, Conrad Russell's political allegiance varied between the Labour Party and the then very weak Liberal Party. He stood as the Labour candidate in Paddington South in the 1966 general election, but failed to win the seat from the Conservatives.
He succeeded to the title of the 5th Earl Russell on the death of his half brother, John Conrad Russell, in 1987. He was the first parliamentarian to take his seat as a Liberal Democrat, shortly after the party was formed in 1988 from a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party.
In 1999, all but 92 hereditary peers were removed from the House of Lords. Lord Russell was elected at the top of his party's list of hereditary peers to retain their seats, though he had consistently argued in favour of abolishing the Lords completely, and replacing it with an elected senate.
Titles and styles
- 15 April 1937 – 16 December 1987: The Honourable Conrad Sebastian Robert Russell
- 16 December 1987 – 14 October 2004: The Right Honourable The Earl Russell
- The Crisis of Parliaments: English History 1509-1660 (1971)
- The Origins of the English Civil War (1973)
- Parliaments and English Politics, 1621-1629 (1979)
- Unrevolutionary England:1603-1642 (1990)
- The Causes of the English Civil War (1990)
- The Fall of the British Monarchies, 1637-1642 (1991)
- Academic Freedom (1993)
- An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism (1999)
In his book Academic Freedom, Russell examines the ideal and the limits of academic freedom, and the relations between the university and the state. He notes (p. 24) that his father's career is a reminder that a free society is not a guarantee against losing an academic job for holding very unpopular opinions on non-academic subjects, as Bertrand Russell in fact did twice.
- Obituary in The Guardian accessed 24 December 2011
- Russell, Conrad Academic Freedom, Routledge (1993) ISBN 0-415-03715-8
- Morrill, John (2008). "Russell, Conrad Sebastian Robert, fifth Earl Russell (1937–2004)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94399. Retrieved 11 April 2012. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Earl Russell
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Elected hereditary peer
The Earl of Glasgow
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|