John Lynch was born on January 11, 1927 in Boldon, County Durham, in northern England. He married Wendy Kathleen Norman in 1960, both are Catholic. They had 5 children.
Lynch studied at the University of Edinburgh (MA, 1952), and at the University of London (Ph.D., 1955). He served in the British Army after World War II from 1945-48. He then taught at the University of Liverpool (1954–61) and, since 1961 has been teaching at the University of London (now Emeritus Professor of Latin American History). He was the director for the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of London from 1974 until his retirement in 1987.
The scope of his work has expanded over the years: from the River Plate area to Latin America as a whole; and from the 18th to the 19th centuries.
"The profession of historian has greatly changed in recent years under the influence of social science and statistics. At a time when measurement and conceptualization are paramount, I consider that the historian still has a duty to be readable, not least outside of the profession and that the virtues of pragmatism, intuition, and a sense of style are as important as ever.” (Contemporary Authors, v. 85-88, p. 363. Detroit, 1980)
"I first became interested in Latin American history out of ignorance and curiosity, eager to discover a new world of sources and events. Since then I have tried to remove a few academic blind spots in Britain by teaching and writing in this field, and also to contribute the view of an outsider to Latin Americans. It is a matter of particular pleasure not only that I have been invited to lecture in their countries but that my books have been translated into Spanish and received a sympathetic reception in the Hispanic world. It is a challenging world, though the challenge for the historian is a limited one. The historian would not claim to resolve the problems of the present, only to reveal the past that lies behind the present.” (Contemporary Authors, v. 85-88, p. 363. Detroit, 1980)