Professor Kevin Theakston
I have been Professor of British Government at the University of Leeds since 1999.
I am a specialist in British politics and government with long-standing research and teaching expertise covering prime ministers and political leadership, Whitehall and the civil service, constitutional issues, and the contemporary history of British politics.
My Leeds University responsibilities and service includes two stints as Head of School in the School of Politics and International Studies (1999-2002 and 2011-2016).
My degrees are from the London School of Economics and Political Science (B.Sc (Econ), PhD), and I have also been a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard University in the USA.
Much of my academic research and writing has a strong historical character, drawing on research in political and government archives, as seen in work I have done on government ministers’ roles and careers, on the history of Whitehall and the civil service, and on Winston Churchill. From the time of my PhD onwards, I have also drawn heavily in my research on ‘elite interviews’ with serving and former office-holders (ministers, MPs, civil servants and political advisers) to get an ‘inside view’ of politics and government. Another strand of my research has been an interest in biography, and I have used this approach to study senior civil servants in the 19th and 20th centuries as well as top political figures in Britain. My research on British prime ministers includes work on understanding and conceptualising their leadership roles; studies of their departure from office and their political and personal ‘afterlives’ (and I have led comparative work on former leaders around the world too); and the conduct of academic surveys evaluating their reputations, performance in office and legacies (producing a series of 'league tables’ ranking the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ prime ministers that usually attract a lot of media attention when they appear).
I have published 14 books over the course of my academic career:
- Junior Ministers in British Government (1987);
- The Labour Party and Whitehall (1992);
- The Civil Service Since 1945 (1995);
- Leadership in Whitehall (1999);
- Bureaucrats and Leadership (edited, 2000);
- Winston Churchill and the British Constitution (2004);
- British Foreign Secretaries Since 1974 (edited, 2004);
- After Number 10: Former Prime Ministers in British Politics (2010);
- Volumes of Influence (edited, 2011);
- Winston Churchill (2012);
- Former Leaders in Modern Democracies (co-edited with Jouke de Vries, 2012);
- How Labour Governments Fall (co-edited with Tim Heppell, 2013);
- William Armstrong and British Policy Making (co-authored with Philip Connelly, 2018);
- Disjunctive Prime Ministerial Leadership in British Politics: From Baldwin to Brexit (co-authored with Christopher Byrne and Nick Randall, 2020).
I am currently working on various projects including a new book about British prime ministers from Winston Churchill to Boris Johnson and academic articles/ book chapters on David Cameron and the British constitution, Theresa May’s premiership, and foreign secretaries and prime ministers.<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>
- B.Sc (Econ)
- Political Studies Association
- Study of Parliament Group
- Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
I teach at different levels in the School on British government and politics, including a popular third year module on Prime Ministers and British Politics.
Research groups and institutes
- Leadership, Parties and Institutions