Emeritus Professor Kevin Theakston

Emeritus Professor Kevin Theakston


I was Professor of British Government at the University of Leeds 1999–2023, and am now Emeritus Professor. 

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 included 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. 

Research interests

Much of my academic research and writing has a strong historical character, drawing on research in political and government archives, as seen in my work 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.

I have published 15 books over the course of my academic career: 

<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)
  • PhD

Research groups and institutes

  • Leadership, Parties and Institutions