Professor Richard Grayson

Head of the School of Education, Humanities & Languages

School of Education, Humanities and Languages


Richard Grayson joined Brookes in April 2023 from Goldsmiths, University London, where he spent eighteen years, latterly as Head of History and Professor of 20th Century History, specialising most recently in Ireland’s First World War and the Irish Revolution. He has extensive management and leadership experience having been Head of Department for ten years at Goldsmiths, and having led there in various university-wide roles. At Brookes, in addition to his Head of School role, Richard is also chair of the cross-University Sustainable and Resilient Futures Network.

Richard was born and brought up in Hemel Hempstead, where he now lives. His BA in English and American History was at the University of East Anglia, followed by a DPhil in Modern History at the University of Oxford (The Queen’s College). After teaching at UEA, Oxford, Buckingham and the Open University, he worked outside academia in 1998-2004. He was the first Director of the Centre for Reform think tank (now the Education Policy Institute) in 1998-9, followed by being Director of Policy of the Liberal Democrats in 1999-2004 (and also being Charles Kennedy’s principal speechwriter in 1999-2001). During that time Richard carried out the research in the Netherlands, and co-authored (with Nick Clegg) the publication, which led to the introduction of the ‘pupil premium’ in schools in England, although after standing for Parliament in Hemel Hempstead in 2005 and 2010 he left the Liberal Democrats in 2013 and joined Labour.


Richard Grayson has written four monographs, his two most important being on Ireland and the First World War / Irish Revolution: Belfast Boys: How Unionists and Nationalists Fought and Died Together in the First World War (2009) and Dublin’s Great Wars: The First World War, the Easter Rising and the Irish Revolution (2018). Richard is currently working on a study of County Cork during the Irish Revolution. His earlier academic career saw publications, including his first two monographs, on subjects ranging from inter-war British foreign policy and politics to the Channel Tunnel, and Mods and Rockers in the 1960s, and he has written two editions of the Beginner’s Guide to British Politics (2010 and 2015).

Key publications

  • Austen Chamberlain and the Commitment to Europe: British Foreign Policy, 1924-29, (Frank Cass, 1997).
  • Liberals, International Relations and Appeasement: The Liberal Party, 1919-39, (Frank Cass, 2001).
  • Belfast Boys: How Unionists and Nationalists Fought and Died Together in the First World War (Continuum, 2009).
  • British Politics: A Beginner’s Guide (One World, 2010 & 2nd edition 2016).
  • Editor, At War with the 16th (Irish) Division, 1914-1918: The Staniforth Letters (Pen and Sword, 2012).
  • Co-editor (with Fearghal McGarry) Remembering 1916: The Easter Rising, the Somme and the Politics of Memory in Ireland (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
  • Dublin’s Great Wars: The First World War, the Easter Rising and the Irish Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2018).
  • Editor, The First World War Diary of Noël Drury, 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers: Gallipoli, Salonika, the Middle East and the Western Front (Boydell & Brewer, 2022).

Research impact

During Ireland’s 1912-23 ‘Decade of Centenaries’ and the UK’s First World War Centenary, Richard took a leading role in public engagement activities, such as chairing the Academic Advisory Group for the WWI Centenary Digital Projects run by the Imperial War Museums and being a member of the Northern Ireland WWI Centenary Committee. He contributed to BBC NI’s Ireland’s Great War and their Voices 16 project. He submitted Impact Case Studies based on his book Belfast Boys, to the REF in both 2014 and 2021, the latter of which saw Goldsmiths History ranked 15th nationally for impact.

Projects as Principal Investigator, or Lead Academic if project is led by another Institution

  • County Cork and the Irish Revolution (01/03/2023 - 31/03/2025), funded by: British Academy, funding amount received by Brookes: £3,477


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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

Fellow, Royal Historical Society

Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy

Co-editor, Irish Political Studies, 2010 - 2012

Co-editor, British Journal for Military History, 2019 - 2024

Further details

Outside academic life, Richard is a season ticket holder at Queens Park Rangers FC, an associate member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, chairperson / junior coach at Hemel Hempstead Town Cricket Club, and a keen cyclist, along with being active when time permits in his local Labour Party. He is on Twitter at: @ProfRSGrayson.