C. Northcote Parkinson

C. Northcote Parkinson bigraphy, stories - Historians

C. Northcote Parkinson : biography

30 July 1909 – 9 March 1993

Cyril Northcote Parkinson (30 July 1909 – 9 March 1993) was a British naval historian and author of some sixty books, the most famous of which was his bestseller Parkinson’s Law, which led him to be also considered as an important scholar within the field of public administration.

Published works

Naval novel series (the Richard Delancey series)
  • The Devil to Pay (1973)
  • The Fireship (1975)
  • Touch and Go (1977)
  • Dead Reckoning (1978)
  • So Near, So Far (1981)
  • The Guernseyman (1982)
Other nautical fiction
  • Manhunt (1990)
Other fiction
  • Ponies Plot (1965)
Biographies of fictional characters
  • The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower (1970)
  • Jeeves: A Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman (1979)
Naval history
  • Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth (1934)
  • The Trade Winds, Trade in the French Wars 1793-1815 (1948)
  • Samuel Walters, Lieut. RN (1949)
  • War in the Eastern Seas, 1793-1815 (1954)
  • Trade in the Eastern Seas (1955)
  • British Intervention in Malaya, 1867-1877 (1960)
  • Britannia Rules (1977)
  • A Short History of the British Navy, 1776-1816
  • Portsmouth Point, The Navy in Fiction, 1793-1815 (1948)
Other non-fiction
  • The Rise of the Port of Liverpool (1952)
  • Parkinson’s Law (1957)
  • The Evolution of Political Thought (1958)
  • The Law and the Profits (1960)
  • In-Laws and Outlaws (1962)
  • East and West (1963)
  • Parkinsanities (1965)
  • Left Luggage (1967)
  • Mrs. Parkinson’s Law: and Other Studies in Domestic Science (1968)
  • The Law of Delay (1970)
  • The fur-lined mousetrap (1972)
  • The Defenders, Script for a "Son et Lumière" in Guernsey (1975)
  • Gunpowder, Treason and Plot (1978)
Audio recordings
  • Discusses Political Science with Julian H. Franklin (10 LPs) (1959)

Early life and education

The youngest son of William Edward Parkinson (1871–1927), an art master at North East County School and from 1913 principal of York School of Arts and Crafts, and his wife, Rose Emily Mary Curnow (born 1877), the young Parkinson attended St. Peter’s School, York, where in 1929 he won an Exhibition to study history at Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge. He received a BA degree in 1932. As an undergraduate, Parkinson developed an interest in naval history, which he pursued when the Pellew family gave him access to family papers at the recently established National Maritime Museum. The papers formed the basis of his first book, Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth, Admiral of the Red. In 1934, then enrolled as a graduate student at King’s College London, he wrote his Ph.D. thesis on Trade and War in the Eastern Seas, 1803-1810, which was awarded the Julian Corbett Prize in Naval History for 1935.

Academic and military career

While still a graduate student in 1934, Parkinson was commissioned into the Territorial Army as a member of the 22nd London Regiment (The Queen’s), was promoted Lieutenant later the same year, and commanded an infantry company at the jubilee of King George V in 1935. In the same year, Emmanuel College, Cambridge elected him a research fellow. While at Cambridge, he commanded an infantry unit of the Cambridge University Officers’ Training Corps. He was promoted Captain in 1937.

From 1938 to 1945, he held a succession of positions, first becoming senior history master at Blundell’s School in Tiverton, Devon in 1938 (and also a Captain in the school’s OTC), then instructor at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1939. In 1940, he joined the Queen’s Royal Regiment as a Captain and undertook a range of staff and military teaching positions in Britain. In 1943 he married Ethelwyn Edith Graves (born 1915), a nurse tutor at Middlesex Hospital, with whom he was to have two children.