Noel Annan, Baron Annan

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Noel Gilroy Annan, Baron Annan, OBE (25 December 1916 – 21 February 2000) was a British military intelligence officer, author, and academic. During his military career, he rose to the rank of colonel and was appointed an OBE. He was provost of King's College, Cambridge 1956–66, provost of University College, London 1966–78, vice-chancellor of the University of London, and a member of the House of Lords.

Annan's publications include Leslie Stephen (1951)—awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize), Roxburgh of Stowe (1965), Our Age (1990), described by Professor John Gray in the New Statesman as a "marvellous compendium of the higher gossip,"[1] Changing Enemies (1995), and The Dons (1999). His best-known essay is "The Intellectual Aristocracy," which illustrates, according to Robert Fulford in the National Post, the "web of kinship that united British intellectuals (the Darwins, Huxleys, Macaulays, etc.) in the 19th and early 20th centuries."[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Annan was born in Gloucester Terrace, London, and was educated at St. Winnifred's School, Seaford in East Sussex, and Stowe School.[1] At Stowe, he was head of Temple House, and editor of the school newspaper The Stoic. He went up to King's College, Cambridge[1] in 1935, where he read History, then continued for a fourth year to read Law. While at King's, he was recruited into the Cambridge Apostles, a secret debating society whose members included Guy Burgess, and Michael Straight, who later became spies for the Soviet Union (see Cambridge Five).[citation needed]

Military career[edit]

In October 1940, he entered officer cadet training, and in January 1941 was commissioned in the Intelligence Corps and posted to MI14, a department of the War Office, where "Annan was given an important job in operational intelligence studying the movement by rail of German forces."]][2] In 1942, he was posted to the Joint Intelligence Staff in the War Cabinet Office, which was located with Winston Churchill in his bunker. [3] In 1944, he was transferred to Paris to become the French liaison officer with British military intelligence, later becoming a senior officer in the political division of the British Control Commission in Germany. Annan was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1946.[3]

Academic career[edit]

Annan returned to King's in 1946, where he had been elected to a fellowship in absentia in 1944 at the unusually young age of just 28.[1] He joined the economics faculty and lectured in politics.

In June 1950, he married Gabriele Ullstein and they had two offspring - Lucy (born 1952) and Juliet (born 1955).

He was elected Provost of King's in 1956. In 1966, he took up the post of Provost of University College, London, then from 1978 until 1981, was Vice-Chancellor of the University of London – the first person to take on the role full-time.[1] He was created a life peer on 16 July 1965 as Baron Annan, of the Royal Burgh of Annan in the County of Dumfries.[4] He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1974.[5] Essex University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1967.[citation needed] He was also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.[citation needed]


He acted as a trustee of the British Museum 1963–1980, and of the National Gallery 1978–85. He also chaired the Royal Commission on Broadcasting, which concluded in 1977 (see Annan Committee). He was the first chairman of the Trustee's education committee at Churchill College, Cambridge.


  • Leslie Stephen: His Thought and Character in Relation to His Time. London: MacGibbon & Kee. 1951. 
  • The Curious Strength of Positivism in English Political Thought. London: Oxford University Press. 1959. 
  • Roxburgh of Stowe: The Life of J. F. Roxburgh and His Influence in the Public Schools. London: Longmans. 1965. 
  • The Disintegration of an Old Culture. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1966. 
  • How Dr. Adenauer Rose Resilient from the Ruins of Germany. London: Institute of Germanic Studies, University of London. 1983. ISBN 0-85457-116-7. 
  • Leslie Stephen: The Godless Victorian (rev. ed.). London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 1984. ISBN 0-297-78369-6. 
  • Our Age: Portrait of a Generation. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 1990. ISBN 0-297-81129-0. 
  • Changing Enemies: The Defeat and Regeneration of Germany. London: HarperCollins. 1995. ISBN 0-00-255629-4. 
  • The Dons: Mentors, Eccentrics and Geniuses. HarperCollins. 1999. ISBN 0-00-257074-2. 

Annan was a signatory to a famous letter published in The Times in 1958 which saw the establishment of the Homosexual Law Reform Society, a group who fought for homosexual law reform. (See Patrick Higgins, Heterosexual Dictatorship: Male Homosexuality in Post-War Britain, London: Fourth Estate Ltd; 1996, p. 125.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d According to this obituary in the Guardian newspaper (link) dated February 2000, accessed 5 February 2014.
  2. ^ This quote is taken from this obituary in the Guardian newspaper (link) dated 23 February 2000, accessed 5 February 2014.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37598. p. 2769. 13 June 1946.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 43713. p. 6729. 16 July 1965.
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Lord Noel Gilroy Annan, memorial booklet published by King's College, Cambridge, 2001.
  • Portraits of Annan, National Portrait Gallery
Academic offices
Preceded by
Stephen Ranulph Kingdon Glanville
Provost of King's College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Edmund Leach
Preceded by
Benjamin Ifor Evans
Provost of University College London
Succeeded by
James Lighthill
Preceded by
Sir Frank Hartley CBE
Vice-Chancellor of University of London
Succeeded by
Lord Quirk