HUGH BROGAN (20 March 1936-26 July 2019)
Repton has produced several distinguished chroniclers of the past.
Repton has produced several distinguished chroniclers of the past including J.A.R Marriott (B, 1872-1878), G.R. Storry (N, 1927-32), W. M. Simon (L, 1936-40) and Kenneth Rose (O, 1939-42) but with the passing of Hugh Brogan (O, 1949-1954) it has undoubtedly lost its greatest historian.
Hugh’s Headmaster, Lynam Thomas, once asked whether the School was “justified in asking any boy who has hopes of going to Oxford or Cambridge to spend his time on the various duties involved in being head of his House, or acting in a play, singing in a musical society, playing cricket for the School, or being in charge of any of our numerous out of school activities.” He need not have worried in Hugh’s case as he went up to Cambridge (following national service) having made a huge and varied contribution to Repton’s cultural and intellectual life: writing for the Reptonian, debating, painting, acting and running the Historical Society (which under his stewardship involved many playreadings).
After graduating with a First, there was a spell of journalism (with the Economist), a Harkness fellowship (which took him to the Brookings Institute and Yale) before Hugh became a full -time academic, first as a fellow of St John’s, Cambridge, and then as a Professor at Essex. His career was punctuated by a series of critically acclaimed books on subjects including Arthur Ransome, Kipling, and de Tocqueville, whilst his Longman History of the United States (later republished as the Penguin History of the United States) also achieved considerable commercial success, representing what is still the best single-volume history of that nation.
Through it all Hugh maintained his connection with Repton, serving as Governor, 1970-1984, and latterly endowing an essay competition in his name but his greatest gift to the school will be his last book: A School in England: The History of Repton (Profile Books, 2020). It is a book which will equal the very best public school histories (Tyerman on Harrow, Annan on Stowe and Newsome on Wellington); surpass all existing books on the School; and prove Hugh Brogan to have indeed been Repton’s greatest historian in both senses of that phrase.
Written by John Plowright