David Runciman

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David Walter Runciman (born 1967) is an English academic who teaches politics and history at Cambridge University, where he is Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies, Professor of Politics, and a fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.[1] He was educated at Eton College, where he won the Newcastle Scholarship, and Trinity College, Cambridge.[2]


Runciman began writing for the London Review of Books in 1996 and has written dozens of book reviews and articles on contemporary politics since, for the LRB and a number of other publications.[3]

Runciman has published six books. An adaptation of his PhD thesis was published in 1997 as Pluralism and the Personality of the State. The Politics of Good Intentions: History, Fear and Hypocrisy in the New World Order – which evaluates contemporary and historical crisis in international politics after 9/11 – was published in 2006. His book Political Hypocrisy (2008) explores the political uses of hypocrisy from a historical perspective.[4] The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present (2013) lays out his theory of the threat of democratic overconfidence.[5] In 2014, Profile Books published his book Politics: Ideas in Profile. A new book, titled How Democracy Ends is scheduled for release in the summer of 2018.

In October 2014, he was appointed head of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. Runciman gave his inaugural lecture on 24 February 2015 on Political Theory and Real Politics in the Age of the Internet.[6] He was preceded in this position by Andrew Gamble and Geoffrey Hawthorn.

Since 2015, Runciman has hosted a podcast called Talking Politics. The podcast convenes a panel of academics from the University of Cambridge and elsewhere to speak about current affairs and politics. Guests have included Thomas Piketty, Judith Butler and John Lanchester.

Family and early life[edit]

Runciman was born in St John's Wood, North London, England, and grew up there. His father, Viscount Runciman, Garry Runciman, is a noted political scientist and academic and his mother, Ruth Runciman, is former chair of the UK Mental Heath Commission, a founder of the Prison Reform Trust and former chair of the National Aids Trust. His father, mother, and paternal grandfather and great-grandfather all attended Cambridge.[7]

David Runciman is the great nephew of the historian Sir Steven Runciman, and is heir to his family's viscountcy.[8] He is married to the food writer and Cambridge doctorate Bee Wilson.[7][9]


After a scathing book review in The Guardian of Antifragility by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Taleb referred to Runciman as the "second most stupid reviewer" of his works, arguing that Runciman had missed the concept of convexity, the theme of his book. "There are 607 references to convexity", Taleb wrote.[10][11]



  1. ^ "David Runciman". Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Cambridge. Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  2. ^ O'Reilly, Judith (1 September 2008). "David Cameron's reading list made me the dinner guest from Hell". The Times. 
  3. ^ "David Runciman". London Review of Books. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  4. ^ Dunne, Tim (17 July 2008). "Political Hypocrisy: The Mask of Power, from Hobbes to Orwell and Beyond". Times Higher Education. 
  5. ^ Bogdanor, Vernon (14 November 2013). "The Confidence Trap by David Runciman: Are we too complacent about democracy?". New Statesman. 
  6. ^ "Politics and International Studies (POLIS)". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Shook, Karen (5 December 2013). "The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present, by David Runciman". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  8. ^ Crick, Michael (9 January 2008). "Happy families". BBC Newsnight blog. 
  9. ^ Kramer, Jane. "A Fork of One's Own: A history of culinary revolution". The New Yorker. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  10. ^ Antifragile: How to Live in a World We Don't Understand by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – review by David Runciman The Guardian 21 November 2012
  11. ^ Response by Taleb

External links[edit]