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Alfred Duggan

Alfred Duggan

British historian
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro British historian
Countries United Kingdom
Occupations Historian Archaeologist Writer Novelist
Gender male
Birth Buenos Aires
Education Eton College, Balliol College
The details

Alfred Duggan (1903–1964) was a British historian, archeologist and best-selling historical novelist during the 1950s.


Although he was raised in England, Duggan was born Alfredo León Duggan in Lomas de Zamora Buenos Aires, Argentina to a family of wealthy landowners of Irish descent. His family moved to England when he was two years old. His father Alfredo Huberto Duggan, a first generation Irish Argentinian, was appointed in 1905 to the Argentine Legation in London, and died in 1915. In 1917, his mother, the Alabama-born Grace Elvira Hinds, daughter of the U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro, became the second wife of Lord Curzon, the former Viceroy of India. Duggan and his brother Hubert (1904–1943) were raised in England at Curzon's seats, and were educated, first at Wixenford and Eton, then Oxford University, where they became acquainted with Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh.

Alfred Duggan kept a car while at Oxford, one of the few students with sufficient funding and influence to do this; the University Statutes prohibited undergraduate members of the University from keeping a car within a certain distance of the town centre at Carfax, so Duggan kept his vehicle, an early Rolls-Royce, just outside the limit of the jurisdiction of the University Proctors, and would regularly drive himself and his friends to and from London during the social season.

During 1938–41, Duggan served with the London Irish Rifles, with active service in the Norwegian Campaign. For the rest of World War II he worked in an airplane factory.


Duggan's novels are known for being based on meticulous historical research. He also wrote popular histories of Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages. Knight With Armour was his first novel, written in 1946. He visited practically every place and battlefield described in the book, because he was also an archaeologist, having worked on excavations in Istanbul during the 1930s.

Unlike many historical novelists, he does not idealise his subjects. A few of the characters are noble, some rather nasty, many mixed in their motives. Some of the novels can be seen as funny, in a dry and noirish style. A recurring theme is the slow moral corruption of a character who begins with an exalted opinion of himself as noble, wise and brave but who gradually compromises himself morally.

Most of the stories are told from the viewpoint of the ruling class, sometimes the ruler and sometimes a knight or noble. In English history, his novels show a general approval of the Norman conquest.



  • Knight with Armour (1950). The First Crusade, from the viewpoint of a rather ordinary knight.
  • Conscience of the King (1951). A speculative life of Cerdic, the founder of the kingdom of Wessex.
  • The Little Emperors (1951). A succession of coups in late Roman Britain.
  • Lady for Ransom (1953). Norman mercenaries from the West serving the Byzantine Empire in the 11th century.
  • Leopards and Lilies (1954). A noblewoman seeking her own advantage in the dangerous politics of England under King John and Henry III.
  • God and My Right (1955). The life of St Thomas Becket.
  • Winter Quarters (1956). Two Gauls in the time of Julius Caesar join the Roman army and are captured at the Battle of Carrhae
  • Three's Company (1958). The career of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, triumvir with Octavian and Marcus Antonius after the death of Julius Caesar.
  • Founding Fathers, U.S. title, Children of the Wolf (1959). Romulus and the founding of Rome.
  • The Cunning of the Dove (1960). The career of Edward the Confessor, told by one of his servants—it is implied that this servant was the major informant for the author of the Vita Edwardi.
  • Family Favourites (1960). An ordinary Roman soldier witnesses the reign of Emperor Elagabalus.
  • The King of Athelney, U.S. title, The Right Line of Cerdic (1961). The life of Alfred the Great.
  • Lord Geoffrey's Fancy (1962). Life in one of the short-lived Crusader kingdoms in Greece, told by an ordinary knight, cousin to the eponymous Geoffrey of Briel.
  • Elephants and Castles, U.S. title, Besieger of Cities (1963). The life of Demetrius I of Macedon, one of the Successors after the death of Alexander the Great; after being declared a god as a young man, everything else is an anticlimax.
  • Count Bohemond (1964). Another account of the First Crusade, this time from the viewpoint of Bohemond of Antioch, one of its leaders.

Non fiction

  • Thomas Becket of Canterbury (1952).
  • Julius Caesar: A Great Life in Brief (1955).
  • My Life for My Sheep: Thomas a Becket (1955).
  • He Died Old: Mithradates Eupator, King of Pontus (1958).
  • Devil's Brood: The Angevin Family (1957).
  • Look at Castles (1960). For young readers.
  • The Castle Book (1961).
  • Look At Churches (1961).
  • Growing Up in Thirteenth Century England (1962).
  • The Story of the Crusades 1097–1291 (1963).
  • The Romans (1965). For young readers.
  • Growing up with the Norman Conquest (1965).
  • The Falcon And the Dove: A Life of Thomas Becket of Canterbury (1971).

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