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Paul Bede Johnson (born on 2 November 1928 in Manchestermarker, Englandmarker) is an English Roman Catholic journalist, historian, speechwriter and author. He was educated at the Jesuit independent school Stonyhurst Collegemarker, and at Magdalen Collegemarker, Oxfordmarker. Johnson first came to prominence in the 1950s as a journalist writing for, and later editing, the New Statesman magazine. A prolific writer, he has written over 40 books and contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers. Whilst associated with the left in his early career, he is now a prominent conservative popular historian. His son is the prominent journalist Daniel Johnson, founder of Standpoint.

Early life and career

At Stonyhurst, Johnson received an education grounded in the Jesuit method, which he preferred over the more secularized curriculum of Oxford. One of his tutors at Oxford was the historian A. J. P. Taylor.

After graduating with a second-class honours degree, Johnson performed his national service in the army, joining the King's Royal Rifle Corps and then the Royal Army Educational Corps where he was commissioned as a Captain (acting) based mainly in Gibraltarmarker.[72586] Here he saw the "grim misery and cruelty of the Franco regime".

In the early 1950s he worked on the staff of the Paris periodical Realités, where he was assistant editor (1952-55).

Johnson became left-wing during this period as he witnessed, in May 1952, the police response to a riot in Paris, the "ferocity [of which] I would not have believed had I not seen it with my own eyes." Subsequently, he also served as the New Statesman's Paris correspondent. For a time he was a convinced Bevanite and an associate of Aneurin Bevan himself. Moving back to London in 1955, he joined the Statesman's staff; he was leader writer, deputy editor and then editor from 1965 to 1970.

Johnson received some resistance to his appointment as New Statesman editor, not least from the writer Leonard Woolf who objected to a Catholic filling the position, and Johnson was placed on six months' probation. Some of Johnson's articles already showed signs of iconoclasm: in 1964 he warned of "The Menace of Beatlism," [72587], and he was also found suspect for his attendances at the soirees of Lady Antonia Fraser, then married to a Conservative MP.

Statesmen And Nations (1971), the anthology of his Statesman articles, contains a curious split between numerous reviews of biographies of Conservative politicians and an openness to continental Europe; in one article Johnson even took a positive view of events of May 1968 in Paris, although remaining conscious of the problems of violence in periods of political change. According to this book, Johnson filed fifty-four overseas reports during his Statesman years. Alan Watkins, the political journalist and a former colleague at the Statesman, once claimed in a Guardian feature on Johnson that he is at heart a paternalist conservative who fitted in with the left for a time.

Recent decades

During the 1970s Johnson became increasingly conservative in his outlook, and has largely remained so. In his Enemies of Society (1977), following a series of articles in the British press, he opposed the trade union movement, perceiving it as violent and intolerant, terming trade unionists "fascists". As Britain’s economy faltered, Johnson began to advocate future British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s message of less government and less taxation. He was eventually won over to the Right and became one of Thatcher's closest advisers. “In the 1970s Britain was on its knees. The Left had no answers. I became disgusted by the over-powerful trade unions which were destroying Britain,” he recalled later. [72588]After Thatcher's victory in the general election of 1979 Johnson advised on changes to legislation concerning trade unions, and was also one of Thatcher's speechwriters. “I was instantly drawn to her," he recalls. "I’d known Margaret at Oxford. She was not a party person. She was an individual who made up her own mind. People would say that she was much influenced by Karl Popper or Frederick Hayek. The result was that Thatcher followed three guiding principles: truthfulness, honesty and never borrowing money,” says Johnson.[72589]

Johnson wrote a column for the conservative British weekly magazine The Spectator from 1981 to 2009; initially focusing on media developments, it subsequently acquired the title "And Another Thing". In his journalism, Johnson generally deals with issues and events which he sees as indicative of a general social decline, whether in art, education, religious observance or personal conduct. [72590] [72591]

Johnson wrote a column for the Daily Mail until 2001. In a Daily Telegraph interview in November 2003, he criticised the Mail for having a pernicious impact: "I came to the conclusion that that kind of journalism is bad for the country, bad for society, bad for the newspaper".[72592]

Johnson is a regular contributor to The Daily Telegraph, mainly as a book reviewer, and in the United Statesmarker to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and the National Review. He also writes for the Current Events column at [72593]. For a time in the early 1980s he wrote for The Sun.

Johnson is a critic of modernity because of what he sees as its moral shortcomings,[72594] and also finds objectionable those who use Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to justify their atheism or use it to promote biotechnological experimentation [72595]. As a result of Johnson's views on evolution,[72596] the Darwinian scientist and noted atheist Richard Dawkins[72597] has been a target of Johnson's pen in the past. As a conservative Catholic, Johnson also regards liberation theology as a heresy and defends clerical celibacy, but alludes to many good reasons for ordination of women as priests.[72598]

Admired by conservatives in the United Statesmarker and elsewhere, he is strongly anti-communist[72599]. Johnson has defended Richard Nixon[72600] in the Watergate scandal, finding his cover-up considerably less heinous than Bill Clinton's perjury, and Oliver North in the Iran-Contra Affair. In his Spectator column he has defended his friend Jonathan Aitken[72601] and has expressed qualified admiration for General Franco.[72602] He has, on the other hand, criticised European countries, in particular Francemarker, for being undemocratic [72603].

He served on the Royal Commission on the Press (1974–77) and later was a member of the Cable Authority (regulator) from 1984 to 1990.

In 2006, Johnson was honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President George W. Bush.

Personal life

Paul Johnson has been married to the psychotherapist and former Labour Party parliamentary candidate Marigold Hunt since 1958. They have three sons and a daughter: the journalist Daniel Johnson, a freelance writer, editor of Standpoint magazine, and previously associate editor of The Daily Telegraph; Luke Johnson, businessman and chairman of Channel 4 Television; Cosmo Johnson; and Sophie Johnson-Clark, who has worked as a television script editor and now resides in the U.S. Paul Johnson has nine grandchildren.

In 1998 Johnson was revealed to be having an eleven year affair with the writer Gloria Stewart. Stewart went public with the affair to the newspapers after what she saw as Johnson’s hypocrisy over his views on morality, religion and family values and also alleged that Johnson was a spanking fetishist adding "Paul loved to be spanked and it was a big part of our relationship. I had to tell him he was a very naughty boy." [72604]

Paul Johnson is a friend of British playwright Tom Stoppard, who dedicated his play Night and Day (1978) to Johnson.

Incomplete bibliography

Johnson's books are listed by subject or type. The country of publication is the UK, unless stated otherwise.

Anthologies, polemics & contemporary history
  • 1957 Conviction MacGibbon & Kee (contribution: "A Sense of Outrage" pp202–17, with Brian Abel-Smith, Nigel Calder, Richard Hoggart, Mervyn Jones, Norman Mackenzie (ed), Peter Marris, Iris Murdoch Peter Shore, Hugh Thomas, Peter Townsend & Raymond Williams)

  • 1957 The Suez War MacGibbon & Kee

  • 1958 Journey Into Chaos MacGibbon & Kee [Western Policy in the Middle East]

  • 1971 Statesmen And Nations Sidgwick & Jackson [An anthology of New Statesman articles from the 1950s and 1960s. Often surprisingly mild in tone given Johnson's later development.]

  • 1977 Enemies of Society Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1980 The Recovery of Freedom (Mainstream Series) Basil Blackwell

  • 1981 The Best of Everything - Animals, Business, Drink, Travel, Food, Literature, Medicine, Playtime, Politics, Theatre, Young World, Art, Communications, Law and Crime, Films, Pop Culture, Sport, Women's Fashion, Men's Fashion, Music, Military (ed by William Davis) - contributor

  • 1985 The Pick of Paul Johnson Harrap

  • 1986 The Oxford Book Of Political Anecdotes (2nd ed 1991) Oxford University Press

  • 1988 Intellectuals Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1994 The Quotable Paul Johnson A Topical Compilation of His Wit, Wisdom and Satire (George J. Marlin, Richard P. Rabatin, Heather Higgins (Editors)) 1994 Noonday Press/1996 Atlantic Books(US)

  • 1994 Wake Up Britain - a Latter-day Pamphlet Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1996 To Hell with Picasso & Other Essays: Selected Pieces from “The Spectator” Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1993 Gerald Laing : Portraits Thomas Gibson Fine Art Ltd (with Gerald Laing & David Mellor MP)

  • 1999 Julian Barrow's London Fine Art Society

  • 2003 Art: A New History Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1972 The Offshore Islanders: England's People from Roman Occupation to the Present/to European Entry [1985ed as History of the English People; 1998ed as Offshore Islanders: A History of the English People] Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1974 Elizabeth I: a Study in Power and Intellect Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1974 The Life and Times of Edward III Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1976 Civilizations of the Holy Land Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1977 Education of an Establishment in The World Of the Public School (pp13–28), edited by George MacDonald Fraser, Weidenfeld & Nicolson /St Martins Press (US edition)

  • 1978 The Civilization of Ancient Egypt Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1981 Ireland: A Concise History from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day [as ...Land of Troubles 1980 Eyre Methuen] Granada

  • 1983 A History of the Modern World from 1917 to the 1980s Weidenfeld & Nicholson

  • 1984 Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s Weidenfeld & Nicolson [later, ...Present Time and ...Year 2000 2005 ed] Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1987 Gold Fields A Centenary Portrait Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1987 The History of the Jews [2001ed] Weidenfeld & Nicolson (later editions titled A History of the Jews)

  • 1991 The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1996 The Holocaust Phoenix [pages 482 to 517 of A History of the Jews]

  • 1997 A History of the American People Weidenfeld & Nicolson ISBN 0-06-093034-9 [72605]

  • 2002 The Renaissance [: A Short History *] Weidenfeld & Nicolson/*Random House (USA)

  • 2002 Napoleon (Lives S.) Weidenfeld & Nicolson [2003 Phoenix pbk]

  • 2005 George Washington: The Founding Father (Eminent Lives Series) Atlas Books

  • 2006 Creators HarperCollins Publishers (USA) ISBN 0-06-019143-0

  • 2004 The Vanished Landscape: A 1930s Childhood in the Potteries Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1959 Left of Centre MacGibbon & Kee ["Left Of Centre describes the meeting of a Complacent Young Man with an Angry Old City"]

  • 1964 Merrie England MacGibbon & Kee

  • 1975 Pope John XXIII Hutchinson

  • 1982 Pope John Paul II And The Catholic Restoration St Martins Press

  • 1996 The Quest for God: A Personal Pilgrimage Weidenfeld & Nicolson/HarperCollins (USA)

  • 1997 The Papacy Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1973 The Highland Jaunt Collins (with George Gale)

  • 1974 A Place in History: Places & Buildings Of British History Omega [Thames TV (UK) tie-in]

  • 1978 National Trust Book of British Castles Granada Paperback [1992 Weidenfeld ed as Castles Of England, Scotland And Wales]

  • 1980 British Cathedrals Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • 1984 The Aerofilms Book of London from the Air Weidenfeld & Nicolson


  1. As he saw it in his 1957 Conviction essay.
  2. Paul Johnson "Bugles softly blowing, national service was a time to treasure", The Spectator, 22 July 2000, as reproduced on the findarticles website.
  3. Conviction, p206

External links


  • Robin Blackburn "A Fabian at the End of His Tether" (New Statesman December 14, 1979, reprinted in Stephen Howe (ed) Lines of Dissent: Writings from the New Statesman 1913-88 1988, Verso pp284–96)
  • Christopher Booker The Seventies: Portrait of a Decade 1980 Allen Lane (chapters: "Paul Johnson: The Convert Who Went over the Top" pp238–44 and "Facing the Catastrophe" pp304–7)

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