Dominic Sandbrook

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Dominic Sandbrook (born 2 October 1974)[1][2] is a British historian and author who has been a noticeable defender of the British Empire, controversially declaring in the Daily Mail in 2010 that "Britain's empire stands out as a beacon of tolerance, decency and the rule of law … Nor did Britain countenance anything like the dreadful tortures committed in French Algeria."[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, he was educated at Malvern College[4][5] and studied at Balliol College, Oxford, the University of St Andrews and Jesus College, Cambridge.

Previously a lecturer in history at the University of Sheffield, he has been a senior fellow of the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University and a member of its history faculty. Sandbrook is now visiting professor at King's College London,[6] and a freelance writer and newspaper columnist. In 2007 he was named one of Waterstone's 25 Authors for the Future.


Sandbrook's first book, a biography of the American politician and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, proved extremely controversial on its publication in the United States in 2004. The book was described by Louis Menand in The New Yorker as "intelligent and well written" but "unremittingly unsympathetic" toward its subject. McCarthy himself called the book "almost libellous".

In 2005, Sandbrook published Never Had It So Good, a history of Britain from the Suez Crisis to The Beatles, 1956–1963. It was described as a "rich treasure chest of a book" by Anthony Howard in The Daily Telegraph, who wrote of his "respect for the sweep and scope of the author's knowledge",[7] while Nick Cohen wrote in The Observer that it was "a tribute to Sandbrook's literary skill that his scholarship is never oppressive. Alternately delightful and enlightening, he has produced a book which must have been an enormous labour to write but is a treat to read".[8]

The sequel, White Heat, covering the years 1964–1970 and the rise and fall of Harold Wilson's Labour government, was published in August 2006. "Sandbrook's book could hardly be more impressive in its scope," wrote Leo McKinstry in The Times. "He writes with authority and an eye for telling detail.".[9] In November 2009, it was named by the Telegraph as "one of the books that defined the Noughties".[10]

Unlike some previous historians of the 1960s, Sandbrook argues that the period was marked by strong conservatism and conformity. His books attempt to debunk what he sees as myths associated with the period, from the sexual revolution to student protest, and he challenges the "cultural revolution" thesis associated with historians like Arthur Marwick. This approach has not always endeared him to professional veterans of the period. The rock critic Charles Shaar Murray, for example, called him "the Hoodie Historian ... throwing whatever passes for gang signs in the history department of the University of Sheffield".[11]

Sandbrook continued the history of post-war Britain with State of Emergency (2010), covering the period 1970–1974,[12] and Seasons in the Sun, which took the story up to the election of Margaret Thatcher as prime minister in 1979. According to his website, he is currently working on a fifth volume about Britain in the early 1980s.[13]

Sandbrook has written articles and reviews for the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer and The Daily Telegraph and has appeared on BBC radio and television. His Radio Four series Slapdash Britain, charting the rise and fall of British governance since the Second World War, was described by the radio critic Miranda Sawyer as "very brilliant".[14]

Apparent plagiarism[edit]

In February 2011, Michael C. Moynihan identified several instances of apparent plagiarism in Sandbrook's book Mad as Hell.[15]

On the 1976 bicentennial celebration in Boston, Sandbrook had written:

As the orchestra reached the climax of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, the church bells pealed, howitzers thundered, fireworks sent shards of color wheeling through the sky, and red, white, and blue geysers burst from a fireboat behind the Hatch shell.

Moynihan showed that this looks like two slightly re-edited sentences grafted together — one from a 1976 Time magazine article:

As the orchestra reached the climax of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, howitzers boomed, church bells pealed

the other from J. Anthony Lukas's "Common Ground":

geysers of red, white, and blue water burst from a fireboat behind the band shell

On the Iranian hostage crisis, Sandbrook wrote:

At Washington's National Cathedral, bells tolled every day at noon, once for each day of their captivity, while in Lawrence, Massachusetts, churches rang their belles fifty times a day in sympathy.

which compares to Mark Bowden's "Guests of the Ayatollah":

At the National Cathedral in Washington, bells tolled each day at noon, once for each day of the lengthening captivity. In Lawrence, Massachusetts, all of the churches around its city hall sounded their bells fifty times each day at noon to remember the American captives.

Of the Boston bicentennial, Sandbrook writes:

On television, pictures showed girls applauding on their boyfriends' shoulders, fathers lifting their children in the air, a South Boston priest waving an enormous American flag.

again comparing to J. Anthony Lukas in "Common Ground":

Long-haired girls perched on their boyfriends' shoulders, fathers held children aloft, a priest from South Boston waved a huge American flag.

Sandbrook describes Richard Viguerie’s working environment:

windowless, air-conditioned, high- security office building in Falls Church, Virginia.

In Alan Crawford's "Thunder on the Right" (1981) it is described:

windowless, temperature-controlled, professionally guarded high-rise offices in Falls Church, Virginia.

On the phrase used as the title of his book, Sandbrook stated:

from quiet streets and spanking-new shopping malls, there were reports of people shouting. 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!' On college campuses, visitors sometimes saw leaflets being handed around: 'IMAHAINGTTIAM Midnight.' And then at the appointed hour, they would hear the clatter of windows being opened, and hundreds of youngsters would stick their heads out into the night and scream at the tops of their voices, 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.'

Moynihan quotes historian Bruce Schulman’s "The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society and Politics":

In cities, schools, and shopping centers, there would be outbreaks of people shouting, 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!' On college campuses, mysterious signs appeared, fliers announcing, 'IMAHAINGTTIAM Midnight.' And at the witching hour, hundreds of students would stick their heads out the window and scream, 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!'

Further examples from Mad as Hell became apparent, including the following:[16]

Sandbrook, p. 111:

'Why don't you put your one-legged son on a bus for Roxbury?' 'Yeah, let your daughter get bused, so she can get raped!' 'Why don't you let them shoot you, like they shot your brother?' Kennedy's jaw tightened...

J. Anthony Lukas, Common Ground, p. 261:

'Why don't you put your one-legged son on a bus!' 'Yeah, let your daughter get bused, so she can get raped!' 'Why don't you let them shoot you, like they shot your brother!' Kennedy's face tightened...

Sandbrook on the 1976 bicentennial celebrations (Sandbrook, p. 179):

The biggest party on the nation’s history began at 4:31 a.m. on Sunday, July 4, 1976, on Mars Hill in northeastern Maine. As the first rays of the rising sun struck American soil, National Guardsmen fired a fifty-gun salute and raised the Stars and Stripes.

Time magazine’s contemporaneous version:

The big party officially began on northeastern Maine's Mars Hill. It was there, at 4:31 a.m., that the rays of the rising sun first struck U.S. soil on July 4, and 550 local potato farmers and tourists cheered wildly as National Guardsmen fired a 50-gun salute and raised an American flag.

Moynihan later expressed amazement that there were few repercussions for Sandbrook's career.[17] He believes Sandbrook is shielded from criticism by his social connections: “There is an element of protection”, he says. “Media buddies who go to the same dinner parties and all the rest of it.”[18]


Sandbrook presented the BBC Two series The 70s, broadcast in April/May 2012.

He also presented Das Auto: The Germans, their cars and us, a documentary focusing on the postwar German automobile industry.

In November 2013, his new three part series Strange Days: Cold War Britain was broadcast on BBC Two.[19]

In November and December of 2014, his series Tomorrow's Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction was aired in four parts, examining not only the history of the genre, but also looking at its cultural, political and psychological elements.

Personal life[edit]

He currently lives in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire with his wife Catherine, and is a supporter of Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C..


Sandbrook has published the following books:[20]

  • Eugene McCarthy: and the Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2004. ISBN 1-4000-4105-8. 
  • Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles. London: Little, Brown. 2005. ISBN 0-316-86083-2. 
  • White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties. London: Little, Brown. 2006. ISBN 0-316-72452-1. 
  • State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain 1970–1974. London: Allen Lane. 2010. ISBN 1-84614-031-5. 
  • Mad As Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2011. ISBN 1-4000-4262-3. 
  • Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979. London: Allen Lane. 2012. ISBN 978-1-84614-032-7. 


  1. ^ BBC Radio 4 Extra - Archive on 4 - Tuning In, 3 November 2012
  2. ^ "About me", Dominic Sandbrook website.
  3. ^ George Monbiot, 'Deny the British empire's crimes? No, we ignore them'(The Guardian, 23 April 2012)
  4. ^ The Malvern Experience 11–31 July 2010. Malvern College official website. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  5. ^ The week ahead Sunday 21 January until Sunday 28 January. Wellington College official website. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  6. ^ "King’s College London", Dominic Sandbrook website.
  7. ^ Anthony Howard, "The actor-manager's greatest production" (book review), Daily Telegraph, 1 May 2005.
  8. ^ Nick Cohen "The 60s? They began in '56" (book review), The Observer, 1 May 2005.
  9. ^ The Times, 5 August 2006.
  10. ^ Brian MacArthur "100 books that defined the noughties", Daily Telegraph, 13 November 2009.
  11. ^ Charles Shaar Murray, "Children of the revolution?" (book review), Independent, 11 August 2006.
  12. ^ Simon Sebag Montefiore "State of Emergency by Dominic Sandbrook: review", Sunday Telegraph, 10 October 2010.
  13. ^ "New projects", Dominic Sandbrook website.
  14. ^ Miranda Sawyer, "Nicky Campbell; SlapDash Britain; Jeremy Vine", The Observer, 20 June 2010.
  15. ^ Michael C. Moynihan (12 February 2011). "When the Tea Party Began". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  16. ^ The Words You Use Should Be Your Own / Don't Plagiarize or Take On Loan - Michael C. Moynihan|Mar. 9, 2011 4:33 pm
  17. ^ Foster Kamer (30 July 2012). "Q & A: Michael C. Moynihan, The Guy Who Uncovered Jonah Lehrer’s Fabrication Problem". New York Observer. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  18. ^ The US journalist who exposed Jonah Lehrer wonders why his criticisms of Dominic Sandbrook were ignored - Brendan O’Neill - The Telegraph - August 8th, 2012
  19. ^ Strange Days: Cold War Britain, BBC website
  20. ^ "Books: Available and coming soon". Dominic Sandbrook website. Retrieved 2 February 2012. 

External links[edit]