The British historian and political journalist George Peabody Gooch (1873-1968) is noted for his work on historiography and diplomatic history.
Born to a middle-class London family in 1873, George Gooch was fortunate, as he once remarked, to have been born with "a warm heart, an inquiring mind, and an adequate income." After studying at Eton, London, and Trinity College, Cambridge, he spent the autumn of 1895 in Berlin. That same year he made the acquaintance of Lord Acton, who guided the young historian's work for the next 5 years. In 1896 Gooch attended lectures at the Sorbonne and the School of Political Science in Paris. In 1903 he married Sophie Schoen.
Gooch's first work, English Democratic Ideas in the Seventeenth Century (1898), in which he viewed even the most fanatical of his historical subjects with liberal toleration, is a classic in its field. Politics, however, soon drew him away from scholarly pursuits. The crisis of the Boer War brought Gooch into the company of other young Liberals who attacked the imperialism of Joseph Chamberlain. In 1903 Gooch stood for member of Parliament from Bath and in 1906 was elected. His defeat for reelection in 1910 brought his active political career to a close, but the experience had confirmed his liberalism and given him personal knowledge of the leading personalities of his time.
Gooch was editor of the Contemporary Review from 1911 until 1960. He contributed many essays to the Review, using it to attack Nazism after 1934. To its pages he welcomed refugees from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
In History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century (1913), Gooch's most lasting achievement, he assessed the writings of over 500 historians, tracing the emergence of the scientific method in historical research, portraying the masters of the craft, and analyzing their influence on their times. His other major contribution to historiography was Recent Revelations of European Diplomacy (1927; revised periodically until 1940), in which he discussed authors and surveyed the publication of documents and memoirs concerned with pre-1914 diplomacy.
Between World Wars I and II Gooch wrote numerous books on diplomatic history, edited British Documents on the Origins of the War with Harold Temperley (11 vols., 1926-1938), and published essays on current political questions. As president of the National Peace Council (1933-1936), he tried to convince other pacifists that peace could be maintained only by opposing the dictators on the Continent.
After World War II Gooch's interests turned to the 18th century, and he wrote Frederick the Great (1947), Maria Theresa (1951), Catherine the Great (1954), and Louis XV (1956). He died on Aug. 31, 1968.
Further Reading on George Peabody Gooch
For an understanding of Gooch, the best work is his autobiography, Under Six Reigns (1958). There is an essay on Gooch by F. L. Hadsel in Samuel William Halperin, ed., Some 20th-Century Historians: Essays on Eminent Europeans (1961).
Additional Biography Sources
Eyck, Frank, G.P. Gooch: a study in history and politics, London: Macmillan; Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Distributed by Humanities Press, 1982.