Tristram Hunt

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Tristram Hunt

Tristram Cropped.jpg
Shadow Secretary of State for Education
In office
7 October 2013 – 12 September 2015
LeaderEd Miliband
Harriet Harman (Acting)
Preceded byStephen Twigg
Succeeded byLucy Powell
Member of Parliament
for Stoke-on-Trent Central
In office
6 May 2010 – 23 January 2017
Preceded byMark Fisher
Succeeded byGareth Snell
Personal details
Tristram Julian William Hunt

(1974-05-31) 31 May 1974 (age 45)
Cambridge, England
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Juliet Thornback
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge

Tristram Julian William Hunt, FRHistS (born 31 May 1974) is a British historian, broadcast journalist and former Labour Party politician who served as the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central from 2010 to 2017.[1] In January 2017 he announced he would leave the House of Commons in order to take up the post of director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.[2]

Hunt is a lecturer in modern British History at Queen Mary University of London.[3] He has written several books and presented history programmes on television. He is a regular writer for The Guardian and The Observer.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Hunt was born in Cambridge, the son of Julian Hunt, a meteorologist and leader of the Labour Party group on Cambridge City Council in 1972–73, who in 2000 was awarded a life peerage as Baron Hunt of Chesterton.[5] Tristram Hunt was educated at University College School, an all-boys' independent school in Hampstead. There, he achieved two As (History and Latin) and a B (English Literature) at A-Level. He took a First in History at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1995.[6]

He later attended the University of Chicago, and was for a time an Associate Fellow of the Centre for History and Economics at King's College, Cambridge. He undertook postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge and completed his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in 2000. His thesis was titled Civic thought in Britain, c.1820–c.1860. While at Cambridge he was a member of the amateur theatrical club the Footlights, where he was a contemporary of David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

Career as historian[edit]

Hunt was a Fellow of the Institute for Public Policy Research and sits on the board of the New Local Government Network (2004). He has made many appearances on television, presenting programmes on the English Civil War (2002), the theories of Sir Isaac Newton (Great Britons, 2002), and the rise of the middle class, and makes regular appearances on BBC Radio 4, having presented broadcasts on such topics as the history of the signature.[7] His first book was The English Civil War: At First Hand (2002, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 029782953X).

His specialism is urban history, specifically during the Victorian era, and it is this subject which provided him with his second book, Building Jerusalem (2004, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 0297607677). This book, covering such notable Victorian minds as John Ruskin, Joseph Chamberlain and Thomas Carlyle, received many favourable reviews but some criticism, notably a scathing review in The Times Literary Supplement by J. Mordaunt Crook ('The Future was Bromley', TLS, 13 August 2004).

Hunt wrote Making our Mark, a publication celebrating CPRE's eightieth anniversary, in 2006. He then completed a BBC series entitled The Protestant Revolution, examining the influence of Protestantism on British and international attitudes to work and leisure for broadcast on BBC Four.[8] In 2007 Hunt was a judge for the Samuel Johnson Prize,[9] the winner being Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

Hunt wrote a biography of Friedrich Engels, The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, which was published in May 2009 by Penguin Books.[10] For the book, Hunt researched at German and Russian libraries and begins with an account of the author's own trip to Engels in Russia. The biography received a number of favourable reviews, including one from Roy Hattersley, the former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, in The Observer.[11]

On 18 May 2013, Dr Hunt delivered his lecture 'Aristocracy and Industry: the Sutherlands in Staffordshire' at The Marc Fitch Lectures.[12]

Hunt's book Ten Cities That Made an Empire was published by Allen Lane in 2014.[13] It was dubbed a "lively study of imperial outposts" by the historian Robert Service, writing for The Guardian.[14]

Political career[edit]

A member of the Labour Party, Hunt supported the party as an activist for several years before working on the party's staff. Hunt worked for the Labour Party at Millbank Tower during the 1997 general election; he also worked at the party headquarters during the following 2001 general election. During the 2005 general election he campaigned for Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow.

Hunt twice submitted his name unsuccessfully for selection as a Labour parliamentary candidate: Liverpool West Derby, where Stephen Twigg was selected (2007),[15] and Leyton and Wanstead, where John Cryer was reselected (2009).[16]

Hunt was selected to contest the constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central on 1 April 2010, succeeding Labour's outgoing MP, Mark Fisher.[17][18] Because the candidacy was filled just before the election, the shortlist was drawn up by Labour's ruling National Executive Committee selection panel, with none on the shortlist local to Stoke-on-Trent. This led to the secretary of the Constituency Labour Party, Gary Elsby, standing against Hunt as an independent candidate in protest.[19][20] Despite the controversy of being "parachuted in" to the district, Hunt was elected with 38.8% of the vote.[21] Although the election was the constituency's closest-fought contest in decades, Hunt still had a majority of 5,566 over his nearest rival.[22]

Hunt was appointed a Shadow Education Minister in April 2013, replacing Karen Buck who advanced as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ed Miliband. On 7 October 2013, Hunt was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet, replacing Stephen Twigg as Shadow Secretary of State for Education.[23]

In February 2014, Hunt crossed an authorised University and College Union picket line at Queen Mary University of London to teach his students about "Marx, Engels and the Making of Marxism", defending himself on the grounds that although he was not a member of the union, he supported the right to strike and picket by those who had been balloted.[24] He was strongly criticised by West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson, who described Hunt's behaviour as "preposterous".[25]

Hunt was re-elected in May 2015 with a majority of 5,179.[26] On 12 September 2015, it became known he was leaving the shadow cabinet following Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour leader because of their "substantial political differences", as Hunt told the Press Association.[27]

On 13 January 2017, he announced that he would be resigning as an MP in order to take up the post of Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.[2] He formally resigned, taking the post of Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds, on 23 January 2017.[28] His successor as MP, Gareth Snell, retained the seat for Labour in the subsequent by-election on 23 February 2017.[29]

Political views[edit]

Hunt was formerly a trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund and has a column with the British Sunday paper The Observer. He wrote an article in the New Statesman comparing Cromwell's Republic to the Islamic fundamentalism dominant in Afghanistan at that time (2001).[30]

Speaking of his constituency, Hunt said that "The key to helping manufacturing is investing in education and schools and also selling Stoke nationally and internationally as a place to invest."[31] He also criticised the local council's decision "to try to obliterate the past out and sort of 'cleanse', removing the old bottle ovens and other relics".[32] He instead believed that the city's reputation as a quality pottery maker should be exploited.[32] He has also stated he could better serve his constituency were he to become a Government Minister.[32]

Hunt was accused in February 2015 of implying, in a BBC Question Time discussion on teachers without qualifications, that nuns do not make good teachers. His comments were criticised by Conservative MPs and by the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Hunt stated that he did not mean to cause offence to nuns.[33]

In 2014 Hunt proposed that private schools should be required to form "partnerships" with local state schools if they wanted to keep their charitable status.[34]

Hunt is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[35]

Victoria and Albert Museum, Director[edit]

In February 2017, Tristram Hunt became the Director of the V&A.[36]

Personal life[edit]

Hunt is married to Juliet Thornback with whom he has one son and two daughters; they live in London.


  • The English Civil War: At First Hand (2002, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 029782953X)
  • Building Jerusalem (2004, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 0297607677)
  • The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (Introduction by Tristram Hunt) (2004, Penguin Modern Classics, ISBN 0141187697)
  • The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels (2009, ISBN 0713998520) (US title: Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, ISBN 9780805080254)
  • Ten Cities That Made an Empire (2014) (US title: Cities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban World, Metropolitan Books, ISBN 9780805093087)


  1. ^ "Tristram Hunt | Politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b Stewart, Heather (13 January 2017). "Tristram Hunt to quit as MP to become V&A director". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Dr Tristram Hunt". Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  4. ^ "Tristram Hunt". BBC. 21 March 2007. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  5. ^ Peerage creations since 1997 House of Lords: Library Note
  6. ^[permanent dead link].
  7. ^ Great Britons on IMDb
  8. ^ BBC, The Protestant Revolution.
  9. ^ "Judges of the Samuel Johnson Prize 2007". BBC Four. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  10. ^ "The Frock-Coated Communist, The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels by Tristram Hunt". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  11. ^ Roy Hattersley (26 April 2009). "A communist and a gentleman". The Observer. The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009.
  12. ^ "Launch of Staffordshire Volume XI – Victoria County History". Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Ten Cities that Made an Empire by Tristram Hunt". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  14. ^ Service, Robert (8 June 2014). "Ten Cities That Made an Empire review – Tristram Hunt's lively study of imperial outposts". the Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  15. ^ Nick Coligan (18 September 2007). "Stephen Twigg ends career of another political stalwart". Liverpool Echo. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009.
  16. ^ Claire Hack (26 February 2010). "Leyton/Wanstead: Labour candidate announcement expected tomorrow". East London and West Essex Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009.
  17. ^ Michael Crick (19 March 2010). "The battle for Stoke-on-Trent Central". Newsnight. BBC blog. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009.
  18. ^ "Tristram Hunt picked to represent Labour in election". BBC News. 1 April 2010. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  19. ^ Roland Watson (2 April 2010). "Grassroots revolt as Labour parachutes Tristram Hunt into Stoke seat". The Times. London. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  20. ^ "Labour secretary to stand against party in Stoke". BBC News. 2 April 2010. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  21. ^ "Tristram Hunt". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  22. ^ "Elections 2010: Tristram Hunt wins Stoke-on-Trent Central seat". The Sentinel. 7 May 2010. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  23. ^ "Labour announce date for by-elections". BBC News. 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  24. ^ "BBC News – Tristram Hunt defends crossing picket line for socialism lecture". BBC Online. BBC. 11 February 2014. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  25. ^ Eaton, George (11 February 2014). "Tom Watson attacks Tristram Hunt for crossing a picket line". New Statesman. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  26. ^ "Tristram Hunt MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  27. ^ "Hunt leaves frontbench as Corbyn elected Labour leader". ITV News. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  28. ^ "Three Hundreds of Chiltern: Tristram Hunt". HM Treasury. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  29. ^ "Tories in historic by-election Copeland win as Labour holds Stoke". BBC News. 25 February 2017.
  30. ^ Tristram Hunt (17 December 2001). "Britain's very own Taliban". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009.
  31. ^ "Stoke-on-Trent 'needs government help'". BBC News. 17 April 2010. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  32. ^ a b c Parkinson, Justin (8 February 2011). "Historian Tristram Hunt on switching to life as an MP". BBC News. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  33. ^ "BBC News – Tristram Hunt: 'No offence' meant to nuns in TV comments". BBC News. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  34. ^ Hunt, Tristram (24 November 2014). "Private schools have done too little for too long". Guardian. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  35. ^ "MPs flock to support Labour Israel group". The Jewish Chronicle. 22 September 2016.
  36. ^ "V&A · Executive Board". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 1 April 2019.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Mark Fisher
Member of Parliament
for Stoke-on-Trent Central

Succeeded by
Gareth Snell
Political offices
Preceded by
Stephen Twigg
Shadow Secretary of State for Education
Succeeded by
Lucy Powell