Hugh Berrington, 1928-2010

November 25, 2010

A charismatic lecturer on the psychological aspects of politics has died.

Hugh Berrington was born in Ewell, Surrey on 12 December 1928. He was educated at Ewell Castle School and, at the age of 15, went to work as a junior clerk at Barclays Bank.

After two years' National Service in the RAF, he worked as a clerk for Surrey County Council. It was at this point that his career began to shift towards the academy.

He took a diploma in municipal administration and then a part-time external degree in economics at the University of London, where he graduated with a first in 1954.

A postgraduate degree at Nuffield College, Oxford led to his first academic post as an assistant lecturer in politics at what is now Keele University.

In 1965, he moved to Newcastle University as reader and head of the department of politics. He was promoted to a professorship in 1970.

Although he inherited a department that had only two other members of staff and did not offer a single honours degree, Professor Berrington gradually built it up to the point that, on his retirement in 1994, it taught nearly 400 undergraduates and more than 100 postgraduates.

Part of a generation that pioneered the use of more rigorous empirical (and often quantitative) approaches to the study of political behaviour, Professor Berrington was the author of Backbench Opinion in the House of Commons, 1955-59 (with S.E. Finer and D.J. Bartholomew, 1961), Backbench Opinion in the House of Commons, 1945-55 (1973) and How Nations are Governed (1964).

He was also fascinated by the psychology of politicians.

"By the time he taught us his two legendary psychology of politics courses in the late 1990s, he was already semi-retired, but it didn't dampen his enthusiasm for his subject matter," recalled his former student Ed Dorrell, now news editor at The Times Educational Supplement.

"A combination of classic teaching skill - he made even complex ideas accessible and fascinating - and a wealth of anecdotes made his lectures impossible to miss.

"His classes would be littered with ageing cuttings (which he would dig out from his crammed office) and impressions of the good, the bad and the ugly of political history."

Mr Dorrell added: "He was never more animated than when he was at the lectern. He was, quite simply, the best teacher or lecturer who ever taught me."

Professor Berrington died following a stroke on 8 November and is survived by his wife Catherine and four children.

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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