Steven Runciman
The Hon. Sir James Cochran Stevenson Runciman CH
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

 (7 July 1903 – 1 November 2000) — known as Steven Runciman — was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 historian known for his work on the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. His best known work is his three volume A History of the Crusades
A History of the Crusades
A History of the Crusades is arguably the best known and most widely acclaimed work of historian Steven Runciman.A cursory glance at the body of Runciman’s work would lead many to believe that his passion for history lay in the Byzantine Empire. Although Byzantium was his speciality, Runciman’s...



Born in Northumberland
Northumberland is the northernmost ceremonial county and a unitary district in North East England. For Eurostat purposes Northumberland is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three boroughs or unitary districts that comprise the "Northumberland and Tyne and Wear" NUTS 2 region...

, he was the second son of Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford
Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford
Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford PC was a prominent Liberal, later National Liberal politician in the United Kingdom from the 1900s until the 1930s.-Background:...

, and Hilda Runciman, Viscountess Runciman of Doxford
Hilda Runciman, Viscountess Runciman of Doxford
Hilda Runciman, Viscountess Runciman of Doxford was a British Liberal Party politician.-Family and Education:...

. Both of his parents were or became Members of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

. His father was created Viscount Runciman of Doxford in 1937. His paternal grandfather, Walter Runciman, 1st Baron Runciman
Walter Runciman, 1st Baron Runciman
Walter Runciman, 1st Baron Runciman was an English shipping magnate. Referred to by his grandson Steven as "a Geordie of Scots descent who ran away to sea at 11, was a master mariner by 21 and founded a shipping line", Runciman wrote several books based on his years at sea...

, was a shipping magnate. He was named after his maternal grandfather, James Cochran Stevenson
James Cochran Stevenson
James Cochran Stevenson was an English industrialist at Tyneside and a Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1868 to 1895....

, the MP for South Shields.

It is said that he was reading Latin and Greek by age five. In the course of his long life he would master an astonishing number of languages, so that, for example, when writing about the Middle East, he relied not only on accounts in Latin and Greek and the Western vernaculars, but consulted Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Hebrew, Syriac, Armenian and Georgian sources as well. A King's Scholar at Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

, he was an exact contemporary and close friend of George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

. While there, they both studied French under Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley
Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel...


In 1921 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 as a history scholar and studied under J.B. Bury, becoming, as Runciman later commented, "his first, and only, student". At first the reclusive Bury tried to brush him off; then, when Runciman mentioned that he could read Russian, Bury gave him a stack of Bulgarian articles to edit, and so their relationship began. His work on the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 earned him a fellowship at Trinity in 1927.

After receiving a large inheritance from his grandfather, Runciman resigned his fellowship in 1938 and began travelling widely. From 1942 to 1945 he was Professor of Byzantine Art and History at Istanbul University
Istanbul University
Istanbul University is a Turkish university located in Istanbul. The main campus is adjacent to Beyazıt Square.- Synopsis :A madrasa, a religious school, was established sometime in the 15th century after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. An institution of higher education named the...

, in Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, where he began the research on the Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 which would lead to his best known work, the History of the Crusades (three volumes appearing in 1951, 1952, and 1954). Most of Runciman's historical works deal with Byzantium and her medieval neighbours between Sicily and Syria; one exception is The White Rajahs, published in 1960, which tells the story of Sarawak
Kingdom of Sarawak
The Kingdom of Sarawak was a state in Borneo established by Sir James Brooke in 1842 by receiving independent kingdom status from the Sultanate of Brunei as a reward for helping fight piracy and insurgency...

, an independent state founded on the northern coast of Borneo in 1841 by an Englishman James Brooke
James Brooke
James, Rajah of Sarawak, KCB was the first White Rajah of Sarawak. His father, Thomas Brooke, was an English Judge Court of Appeal at Bareilly, British India; his mother, Anna Maria, born in Hertfordshire, was the illegitimate daughter of Scottish peer Colonel William Stuart, 9th Lord Blantyre,...

, and ruled by the Brooke family for more than a century.

In his personal life, Runciman was an old-fashioned English eccentric, known, among other things, as an aesthete, raconteur, and enthusiast of the occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

. According to Andrew Robinson, a history teacher at Eton, "he played piano duets with the last Emperor of China, told tarot cards for King Fuad of Egypt
Fuad I of Egypt
Fuad I was the Sultan and later King of Egypt and Sudan, Sovereign of Nubia, Kordofan, and Darfur. The ninth ruler of Egypt and Sudan from the Muhammad Ali Dynasty, he became Sultan of Egypt and Sudan in 1917, succeeding his elder brother Sultan Hussein Kamel...

, narrowly missed being blown up by the Germans in the Pera Palace
Hotel Pera Palace
Pera Palace Hotel is an historic special category hotel and museum hotel located in the Beyoğlu district in Istanbul, Turkey. It was built in 1892 for the purpose of hosting the passengers of the Orient Express and was named after the place where it is located...

 hotel in Istanbul and twice hit the jackpot on slot machines in Las Vegas".

He died in Radway
Radway is a village and civil parish in Warwickshire about north-west of Banbury in neighbouring Oxfordshire.The village is at the foot of Edge Hill and is notable for the Battle of Edgehill, one of the early major engagements of the English Civil War, which was fought in fields around the village...

, Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

, while visiting relatives, aged 97. He was interred in Lockerbie
Lockerbie is a town in the Dumfries and Galloway region of south-western Scotland. It lies approximately from Glasgow, and from the English border. It had a population of 4,009 at the 2001 census...

, Dumfriesshire.


  • The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus and His Reign (1929)
  • The First Bulgarian Empire
    First Bulgarian Empire
    The First Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state founded in the north-eastern Balkans in c. 680 by the Bulgars, uniting with seven South Slavic tribes...

  • Byzantine Civilization (1933)
  • The Medieval Manichee : A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (1947)
  • A History of the Crusades: Volume 1, The First Crusade
    First Crusade
    The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

     and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
    Kingdom of Jerusalem
    The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

     (Cambridge University Press 1951)
  • A History of the Crusades: Volume 2, The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East (Cambridge University Press 1952)
  • A History of the Crusades: Volume 3, The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades (Cambridge University Press 1954)
  • The Eastern Schism: A Study of the Papacy and the Eastern Churches during the XIth and XIIth Centuries (1955)
  • The Sicilian Vespers
    Sicilian Vespers
    The Sicilian Vespers is the name given to the successful rebellion on the island of Sicily that broke out on the Easter of 1282 against the rule of the French/Angevin king Charles I, who had ruled the Kingdom of Sicily since 1266. Within six weeks three thousand French men and women were slain by...

    : A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later Thirteenth Century (1958)
  • The White Rajahs (1960)
  • The Fall of Constantinople
    Fall of Constantinople
    The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

     1453 (1965)
  • The Great Church in Captivity (1968)
  • The Last Byzantine Renaissance
    The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

  • The Orthodox Churches and the Secular State (1972)
  • Byzantine Style and Civilization (1975)
  • The Byzantine Theocracy
    Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

  • Mistra: Byzantine Capital of the Peloponnese (1980) (2009 reprint: The Lost Capital of Byzantium: The History of Mistra and the Peloponnese; New foreword by John Freely
    John Freely
    John Freely is an American physicist, teacher, and author of popular travel and history books on Istanbul, Athens, Venice, Turkey, Greece and the Ottoman Empire. He is the father of writer Maureen Freely....

  • A Traveller's Alphabet.Partial Memoirs. (1991)

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