Rhodes James

Biographer and historian


Sir Robert Vidal Rhodes James was a historian and Conservative Member of Parliament. He was born in India and began his education in private schools there, returning to England to attend Worcester College, Oxford.

He wrote his first book, the much-acclaimed biography Lord Randolph Churchill, in 1959 whilst working as a Clerk of the House of Commons. He won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for his next book, An Introduction to the House of Commons (1961). His following two books, a biography of Rosebery, and a reappraisal of the Gallipoli campaign, resulted in his being made a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. In 1970 he wrote a particularly influential revisionist biography of Winston Churchill for the years 1900-1939, arguing that there were substantial reasons why Churchill's judgment was questioned by his contemporaries. He also edited the definitive edition of Churchill's speeches, in eight volumes.

He was elected to the House of Commons in 1976 for the marginal seat of Cambridge, and held that seat until his retirement until 1992. During his time in parliament, he wrote two further highly-praised biographies - a sympathetic biography of the Prime Minister Anthony Eden, and an account of the life of the maverick backbencher Robert Boothby. He was knighted in 1991.