Paul Johnson

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Paul Johnson sporting his Medal of Freedom

Paul Bede Johnson (born 2 November 1928) is a journalist, historian and right-wing polemicist. Originally associated with British liberalism, Johnson later became a staunch critic of the liberal establishment, particularly The Guardian and its treatment of the Conservative government during the 1990s. Johnson's history books are popular with the American right and in 2006 George W. Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom.


Johnson went to school at Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit private school in Lancashire, and then attended, Magdalen College, Oxford. He did his national service from 1949-51 and then joined the Paris periodical Realités. In 1955 he joined the New Statesman, which he edited from 1964 until 1970.[1] Although considered a liberal in his early career, by the 1970s Johnson's anti-communism and conservative moralism meant he came to be increasingly identified with the right. According to The Catholic Herald:

The view of the world revealed in his many books is unashamedly and decisively conservative, which doesn't endear him to the liberal academy. His Modern Times (1983) is said to have been a bible for American conservatives from Richard Nixon to Dan Quayle. During the Iran-Contra hearings Oliver North testified that the director of the CIA, William Casey, had read it at a single sitting.[2]

In 1997 The Independent described Johnson as an "historian and right-wing polemicist, scourge of the liberal-left consensus, friend of Jonathan Aitken, supporter of Neil Hamilton, passionate Thatcherite and all-purpose Mr Irascible."[3] In November 1987 the right-wing propagandist David Hart urged Thatcher's confidant Woodrow Wyatt to encourage her to 'fill the Lords with people loyal to her. People say like Paul Johnson'. [4] In 2006, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. George Bush gave the following tribute:

The struggle between freedom and tyranny has defined the past hundred years, and few have written of that struggle with greater skill than Paul Johnson. His book, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties, is a masterful account of the grievous harm visited on millions by ideologies of power and coercion. In all his writings, Paul Johnson shows great breadth of knowledge and moral clarity, and a deep understanding of the challenges of our time. He's written hundreds of articles and dozens of books, including The History of the Jews, The History of Christianity, The Quest for God, and The Birth of the Modern. Obviously, the man is not afraid to take on big subjects. Eight years ago he published A History of the American People, which, Henry Kissinger said, was "as majestic... in scope as the country it celebrates." In the preface, Paul Johnson called Americans "the most remarkable people the world has ever seen." He said, "I love them and I salute them." That's a high tribute from a man of such learning and wisdom. And America returns the feeling. Our country honors Paul Johnson, and proudly calls him a friend.[5]



The Johnson Family

Johnson has three sons and a daughter: Daniel Benedict (1957), Cosmo James Theodore (1958), Luke Oliver (1961), and Sophie Jane Louise (1963).[7] Luke Johnson is a millionaire businessman and financial journalist, and Daniel Johnson is right-wing political commentator.


  1. Debrett's People of Today (Debrett's Peerage Ltd, November 2007
  2. Andrew M Brown, 'The ‘trinity who tamed the bear’ and other heroes', The Catholic Herald, 18 July 2008
  3. John Walsh, 'Feud - and it's a scorcher!', The Independent, 28 July 1997
  4. Woodrow Wyatt, edited by Sarah Curtis, The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt, Vol. 1 (London: Macmillan, 1998) p.437
  5. White House press release, 'President Bush Honors Medal of Freedom Recipients' 10:18 A.M. EST
  6. John Casey, 'The revival of Tory philosophy', The Spectator, 17 March 2007.
  7. Debrett's People of Today (Debrett's Peerage Ltd, November 2007)