Christopher Duggan

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This article is about the historian. For the footballer, see Chris Duggan.
Christopher Duggan
Christopher Duggan historian Political Book Awards 2013.jpg
Duggan at an award ceremony in 2013
Born Christopher John Hesketh Duggan
(1957-11-04)4 November 1957
Petts Wood, Kent, England, UK
Died 2 November 2015(2015-11-02) (aged 57)
Twickenham, London, England
Title Professor of Modern Italian History
Spouse(s) Jennifer Mundy
Children Two
Academic background
Education Dulwich College
Westminster School
Alma mater Merton College, Oxford
Thesis title Fascism's campaign against the mafia
Thesis year 1985
Doctoral advisor Denis Mack Smith
Academic work
Discipline History
Sub discipline Modern Italian history
Modern Italian culture
Politics of Italy
Institutions Wolfson College, Oxford
All Souls College, Oxford
University of Reading

Christopher John Hesketh Duggan (4 November 1957 – 2 November 2015) was a British historian and academic. He specialised in the political, social and cultural history of modern Italy. He began his career as a research fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford and then at All Souls College, Oxford. In 1987, he moved to the University of Reading where he remained until his death. He had been Professor of Modern Italian History since 2002.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

On 4 November 1957, Duggan was born to Margaret (née Hesketh) and John Duggan in Petts Wood, Kent, England.[3][4] His mother was a nurse and social worker, and his father worked as a shipbroker.[5] He was educated at Dulwich College, an all-boys public school in London, and at Westminster School, an all-boys public school in the grounds of Westminster Abbey.[3] At the age of 11, he won an essay competition and was awarded a Mediterranean cruise as the prize.[4]

Between school and university, Duggan went on holiday to Italy and explored the country on a Honda CB175 motorbike.[4] He then studied history at Merton College, Oxford.[5] He was mostly interested in medieval history at the beginning of his studies, but became interested in the history of modern Italy after being taught by Denis Mack Smith.[3] He graduated with a first class Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1979.[6]

Having completed his bachelor's degree, Duggan spent a year living in Italy. He once had his flat raided by the DIGOS, the Italian anti-terrorist and organised crime unit, because they suspected him of being a foreign subversive; however, he was not arrested or charged. He returned to the University of Oxford to complete a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree under the supervision of Mack Smith.[5] His thesis was completed in 1985 and was titled "Fascism's campaign against the mafia".[7]

Academic career[edit]

Duggan began his academic career as a junior research fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford between 1983 and 1985.[6] From 1985 to 1990, he was a post-doctoral research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford.[5] During this period, he assisted Mack Smith and Moses Finley with updating their A History of Sicily book; this revised version was published in 1986.[6] His first major work, Fascism and the Mafia, grew out of his DPhil, and was published in Italian in 1986 and in English in 1989.[3] From 1990 to 1997, he retained a link with All Souls College, having been elected a Fifty-Pound Fellow.[5][8]

In 1987, Duggan joined the University of Reading as a lecturer in history.[5][6] Unusually for a historian, he was not based in the Department of History but in the Department of European Studies.[3] He taught Italian history, politics, culture and language.[9] In 1994, he was promoted to Reader.[4] In 2002, he was appointed Professor of Modern Italian History.[3] From 2008 to 2013, he was Head of the School of Languages and European Studies (later renamed the School of Literature and Languages).[9]

Shortly before his death, Duggan had been appointed to a research professorship in the Department of History, Reading,[10] and had been elected as a Two Year Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford.[8]

Duggan wrote books about Italian history. A Concise History of Italy (1994) allowed him to return to his original interest in medieval history. The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy since 1796 (2007) focuses on Italy in the 19th and 20th centuries. Francesco Crispi 1818–1901, the first biography on Prime Minister Francesco Crispi, explores Crispi's evolution from a revolutionary democrat to a bellicose authoritarian and his role in the unification of Italy. In his book Fascist Voices (2012), he used the diaries, memoirs and letters of thousands of ordinary Italian citizens to investigate why so many had closely identified with the early 20th-century fascist regime of Benito Mussolini.[4]


Duggan was found dead on 2 November 2015; he was found hanged at his home in Twickenham, London.[11][12] He was 57 years of age.[3] A memorial service was held in the chapel of All Souls College, Oxford on 12 December.[13] A full inquest into his death recorded a verdict of suicide.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Duggan met his wife Jennifer Mundy at the University of Oxford,[3] and they married in 1987.[4] She is an art historian and is currently the head of collection research at the Tate Gallery.[3][11] They had two children: Amelia and Thomas.[4]


In 2013, Duggan's book Fascist Voices (2012) was awarded the prestigious Wolfson History Prize.[15] He received £25,000 in prize money.[16] His doctoral supervisor and mentor, Denis Mack Smith, had been awarded the same prize 36 years earlier. Fascist Voices was also named Political History Book of the Year during the Political Book Awards of 2013.[17]

In 2008, Duggan was appointed a Commendatore dell'Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana (Commander of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity) by the Italian president.[9] This is one of the highest honours Italy can give to a foreign citizen.[18]

Selected works[edit]

  • Finley, M. I.; Smith, Denis Mack; Duggan, Christopher (1986). A history of Sicily. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 978-0701131555. 
  • Duggan, Christopher (1989). Fascism and the Mafia. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300043723. 
  • Duggan, Christopher (1994). A concise history of Italy (1st ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521402859. 
  • Duggan, Christopher; Wagstaff, Christopher, eds. (1995). Italy in the Cold War: politics, culture and society 1948–58. Oxford: Berg. ISBN 978-1859730386. 
  • Duggan, Christopher (2002). Francesco Crispi, 1818–1901: from nation to nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198206118. 
  • Duggan, Christopher (2007). The force of destiny: a history of Italy since 1796. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0713997095. 
  • Duggan, Christopher (2012). Fascist voices: an intimate history of Mussolini's Italy. London: Bodley Head. ISBN 978-1847921031. 
  • Duggan, Christopher (2013). A concise history of Italy (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521760393. 
  • Gundle, Stephen; Duggan, Christopher; Pieri, Giuliana, eds. (2013). The cult of the Duce: Mussolini and the Italians. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0719088964. 


  1. ^ "Staff Profile: Professor Christopher Duggan". University of Reading. Archived from the original on 30 September 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Fort, Linda (6 November 2015). "University of Reading announces death of Italian history expert". getreading. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Professor Christopher Duggan". The Times. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015. (subscription required)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Laven, David (15 November 2015). "Christopher Duggan obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Professor Christopher Duggan, historian – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 18 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Obituary: Professor Christopher Duggan". Staff Portal. University of Reading. 13 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  7. ^ Duggan, Christopher (1985). "Fascism's campaign against the mafia". Search Oxford Libraries Online. The Bodleian Libraries. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Professor Christopher Duggan". All Souls College. University of Oxford. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c "Professor Christopher Duggan". Press Releases. University of Reading. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  10. ^ Sproule, Luke (18 November 2015). "Oxford University professor hanged himself days before birthday". The Oxford Mail. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Award-winning Oxford and Reading history professor Christopher Duggan dies suddenly". The Daily Telegraph. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  12. ^ Cockroft, Steph (18 November 2015). "Award-winning Oxford history professor who was expert on Italy's fascists is found dead two days before his 58th birthday". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  13. ^ "Professor Christopher Duggan (1957–2015)". All Souls College. University of Oxford. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  14. ^ "University of Reading professor Christopher Duggan had lifelong battle with depression, inquest hears". Trinity Mirror Southern. 10 March 2016. Retrieved 6 October 2016. 
  15. ^ "Previous winners". Wolfson History Prize. The Wolfson Foundation. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "Wolfson History Prize Winners Announced". Wolfson History Prize. The Wolfson Foundation. May 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  17. ^ "Political Book Award winners announced". Random House. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  18. ^ Fort, Linda (6 November 2015). "University of Reading announces death of Italian history expert". Get Reading. Retrieved 25 November 2015.