Stephen Koss

Stephen Edward Koss (1940 – 25 October 1984) was an American historian specialising in subjects relating to Britain.

Koss was a student of R. K. Webb.[1] He began his academic career at the University of Delaware, and became an assistant professor at Barnard College, New York City in 1966, and then a full professor in 1971. He was appointed a professor of history at Columbia University in 1978,[2] where he had completed his bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as his doctorate; the doctoral thesis was turned into his first book John Morley at the India Office, 1905–1910 published in 1969,[1] the same year as his biography of R. B. Haldane. He was also a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford.[3] He served on the editorial board of The Journal of Modern History and held office with the North American Conference on British Studies.[4][5] He died on 25 October 1984 as a result of complications following heart surgery.[2]

The historian F. M. Leventhal noted that as Koss matured there was "an increasingly irreverent and ironic tone in [his] scholarship, a willingness to criticize as well as to condone".[1] His death was mourned in several academic books published soon after, together with that of Alan J. Lee, who had also written on the history of newspapers in Britain and who had also died at a relatively young age.[6][7]

Koss is best remembered for a two-volume work The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain (1981, 1984), respectively covering the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Neal Ascherson, reviewing the second volume in 1985, wrote: "Koss was the archive-cruncher of his age. But he had another gift, which was to make the imparting of densely-packed information stylish, readable, often mockingly witty."[8]

A tribute volume appeared in 1987: The Political Culture of Modern Britain: Studies in Memory of Stephen Koss, edited by J. M. W. Bean, with a foreword by John Gross (London: Hamilton).


Works published by Koss include:

The two volumes of The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain were later published by Fontana as a single volume.


  1. 1 2 3 Leventhal, F. M. (October 1985). "Reviews: Changing Fortunes in Fleet Street". Journal of British Studies. 24 (4): 490–495. doi:10.1086/385848. JSTOR 175477. (subscription required)
  2. 1 2 Berger, Joseph (27 October 1984). "Dr. Stephen Koss, Expert On History". New York Times. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. Dennis Griffiths (ed.) The Encyclopedia of the British Press 1422–1992, London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, p.355
  4. "Front Matter". The Journal of Modern History. 54 (1). March 1982. JSTOR 1906047. (subscription required)
  5. "Front Matter". Journal of British Studies. 17 (1). Autumn 1977. JSTOR 175688. (subscription required)
  6. Clarke, Peter (2004). Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000. Penguin History of Britain. 9. Penguin UK. ISBN 978-0-141-93919-3.
  7. Robbins, Keith (1994). Politicians, Diplomacy and War in Modern British History. A. & C. Black. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-852-85111-8.
  8. Neal Ascherson "Newspapers of the Consensus", London Review of Books, 7:3, 21 February 1985, pp.3-5, 3. The quote is from the (freely available) opening of the article online here .

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