Philip Mansel (born 1951) is a historian of courts and cities, and the author of a number of books about revolutionary and post-revolutionary France and the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire. He was born in London in 1951 and educated at Eton College, Balliol College, Oxford, and University College London.
Philip Mansel's first book, Louis XVIII, was published in 1981 and this – together with subsequent works such as Paris Between Empires 1814–1852 (2001) – established him on both sides of the Channel as an authority on the later French monarchy, a fact recognised by his appointment as Chevalier des Arts et Lettres. Six of his books have been translated into French.
Altogether Mansel has published several books of history and biography, mainly relating either to France or to his other main area of interest, the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East: Sultans in Splendour was published in 1988, Constantinople: City of the World's Desire 1453–1924 in 1995 and Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean in 2010. The last two have been translated into Greek and Turkish.
In 2016, Mansel's book Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria's Great Merchant City was released. The book features the author's history of the city in Part 1, as well as 15 primary source accounts in Part 2, collected from British and French consuls, merchants, scientists, and travelers to Aleppo over the past 400 years.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Society of Literature, the Institute of Historical Research (University of London), and the Royal Asiatic Society, and a member of the Conseil Scientifique of the Centre de Recherche du Château de Versailles.
Mansel was awarded the London Library Life in Literature prize in 2012.
Over the past 30 years Mansel has contributed reviews and articles to a wide range of newspapers and journals, including History Today, The English Historical Review, The International Herald Tribune, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and Apollo. Currently he writes reviews for The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement and Cornucopia.
Mansel has lectured all over the world – including the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Turkey – and has made a number of appearances on radio and television, including in the two-part Channel 4 documentary Harem and in Versailles (BBC2, 2012). He has been interviewed on French, Belgian, Turkish and Lebanese television.
- Louis XVIII (London, Blond and Briggs, 1981)
- Pillars of Monarchy: An Outline of the Political and Social History of Royal Guards, 1400–1984 (New York, Quartet Books, 1984)
- The Eagle in Splendour: Napoleon I and His Court (London, George Philip, 1987)
- The Court of France: 1789–1830 (New York, Cambridge University Press, 1988)
- Sultans in Splendour: The Last Years of the Ottoman World (New York, Vendome, 1989)
- Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453–1924 (New York, St. Martin's, 1995)
- The French Émigrés in Europe and the Struggle against Revolution: 1789–1814 (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1999) (Editor, with Kirsty Carpenter)
- Paris Between Empires, 1814–1852 (London, John Murray, 2001) 
- Prince of Europe: The Life of Charles-Joseph De Ligne, 1735–1814 (London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003) 
- Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2005) 
- Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (London, John Murray, 2010) 
- Monarchy and Exile: The Politics of Legitimacy from Marie de Médicis to Wilhelm II (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) (Editor, with Torsten Riotte)
- Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria's Great Merchant City (London, I.B.Tauris, 2016)
Extracts from Book Reviews
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Noel Malcolm said of Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (2010): “The strengths of the book are colossal. Philip Mansel’s knowledge of the history and culture of these places is encyclopedic; he has walked their streets, met the scions of their famous families and penetrated their private archives. His eye for detail is sharp; telling anecdotes are culled from memoirs of all kinds, and the sights and smells of each city are vividly conjured up. At the same time, major developments in political history are explained with clarity and precision.”
Of Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II (2005) Roy Strong wrote in the Spectator: “The complex relationship of dress to power is the topic of Philip Mansel’s quite marvellous book … He has a compulsive tale to tell, one which embraces the whole of western Europe and beyond to the Russian and Turkish empires … This is a hugely readable and important book charting new territory which is only just beginning to be explored.” In the Times Literary Supplement John Rogister wrote: “Mansel’s book is full of insights based on his extensive knowledge, his remarkable skill at ferreting out information from every type of source material, and his extensive travels to remote places … A seriously researched, beautifully illustrated and elegantly written book.”
Prince of Europe: The Life of Charles-Joseph de Ligne (1735–1814) (2003) was described by Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Sunday Times as “A superbly funny, colourful and debauched journey through the palaces and bedrooms, taverns and battlefields of emperors, charlatans, philosophers and prostitutes with the wittiest and naughtiest charmer in Europe. I wished it had been twice as long.” Gore Vidal wrote: “For the unlikely few who may be tired of the Duc de Saint Simon’s memoirs, I highly recommend Philip Mansel’s extraordinary biography of the Prince de Ligne.”
Paris Between Empires 1814 -1852 (2001) was described by Philip Hensher in the Spectator as “absorbing and admirable … an excellent, entertaining history”.
In the Independent, William Dalrymple called Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire 1453–1924 (1995) “an impeccably researched masterpiece of exquisite historical writing … There can be little doubt that this book will become a classic.”
In the Spectator, Justin Marozzi wrote about Aleppo (2016) that “Philip Mansel’s remarkable new history…at once accomplished, entertaining and idiosyncratic…is endlessly enjoyable. Mansel is a profoundly civilised and civilising historian who has spent many years in the Levant. Elegant and elegiac, Aleppo is a precious monument to a once-splendid city that has been reduced to abject ruin and misery.”
Writing in the Financial Times, Elif Shafak stated about Aleppo (2016): “This is an eloquently written book that at times reads like an elegy to Aleppo’s bazaars, embracing worldview and cultural diversity. Written by a scholar who is not only profoundly knowledgeable but who also sincerely cares about his subject, it is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about what we have lost. [...] Those seeking to understand how this can happen ― and it can happen anywhere ― will find in Mansel’s book a powerful combination of research, knowledge, conscience and heart.”
The Levantine Heritage Foundation
Philip Mansel is a trustee of the Levantine Heritage Foundation.
Philip Mansel is actively involved in the Kimmeridge Project, whose objective is to provide a secure and permanent home for the scientifically valuable Etches Fossil Collection, in a world class facility in Kimmeridge. The resulting Jurassic Marine Life Centre will open up access to this important educational resource and provide the village of Kimmeridge with a centre for the local community.
In 1995 Mansel started a campaign to save Clavell Tower, a ruined folly of 1831 which threatened to fall over the cliff above Kimmeridge Bay. This led, in 2007-8, to the Tower's deconstruction, relocation, reconstruction, restoration and modernisation by the Landmark Trust. Clavell Tower is now the Trust's most popular property.
- "Philip Mansel – writes about Monarchs And Courts, Eighteenth And Nineteenth Century in France". Retrieved 3 February 2010.
- "The Society for Court Studies". Retrieved 3 February 2010.
- "Philip Mansel – Senior Fellow of the IHR | Institute of Historical Research". Retrieved 3 February 2010.
- Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 27 April 2003
- Discreet Charms of a Priapic Adventurer, Tim Blanning, Times Literary Supplement, 13 June 2003
- The Emperor’s Real Clothes Roy Strong, The Spectator, 6 August 2005
- Winds of Cosmopolitanism - Making Sense of the Past, The Economist, 9 December 2010