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People in History: The Cambridge 5

Guy Burgess. Wikimedia Commons

In the 1950s, during the height of the first Cold War period, Britain was rocked by the uncovering of a Soviet spy ring which reached to the very heart of the establishment.

Kim Philby was born in India in 1912. His father was a famous author and convert to Islam who worked for the Indian Civil Service and later as advisor to King Ibn Sa’ud of Saudi Arabia. Kim (the nickname came from the Kipling book of the same title) was educated in England, attending Westminster College before going on to Trinity College, Cambridge to read History and Economics. He graduated in 1933.

Donald Maclean was born in London in 1913, son of the Liberal politician Sir Donald Maclean, Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons following the 1918 election. He attended a progressive independent school in Norfolk before enrolling at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1931 to study Modern Languages. He graduated with a first-class degree in 1934. Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in Biography, Queer Blogging

People in History: David Maxwell Fyfe

Wikimedia Commons

Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, first Earl of Kilmuir, might seem an odd subject for today’s blog.Not only wasn’t he queer, but he worked tirelessly against any attempt to decriminalise homosexuality, and may well have been behind the “pogrom” of the 1950s that deliberately targeted gay men for persecution. It’s easy to look back with a sense of superiority, but his opposition to homosexuals was but a footnote in a life which was generally lived well.

Born in Edinburgh in 1900 to a grammar school headmaster and his second wife, Maxwell Fyfe studied at a Scottish independent school before going on to read the Greats (Literae Humaniores, a Classics course based on the history of human learning) at Oxford. He wasn’t a remarkable scholar, more interested in contemporary politics than the ancients, and achieved only a third-class degree. His education was briefly interrupted in 1918 when he took time out to spend a year with the Scots Guards at the end of the First World War. Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in Biography, Queer Blogging

People in History: Alan Turing

Alan Turing at 16. Wikimedia Commons

Alan Turing was born in 1912, second child of Julius and Ethel. His father held a position with the India Civil Service, but his parents returned to England before Alan’s birth, keen for their sons to be raised in England. When his parents needed to return to India, they left the boys in the care of a retired army couple during their absences.

Turing’s extraordinary intelligence showed itself early, as did his enthusiasm for learning. When, at thirteen, a general strike was called on the day he was to start at a new school, he cycled sixty miles unaccompanied in order to attend on time. The school, however, placed greater emphasis on Classical learning than the sciences, and the headmaster wrote to his parents, warning: ” If he is to stay at public [private] school, he must aim at becoming educated. If he is to be solely a Scientific Specialist, he is wasting his time at a public school.” Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in Biography, Queer Blogging