Obituary: Professor Maurice Cranston
Monday 08 November 1993
MAURICE CRANSTON was for 26 years Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics. He excelled both as teacher and writer, producing formidable studies of Locke, Sartre and Rousseau. Yet he was largely self-taught, and always self-conscious about his lack of a public-school education. Ambition and cleverness, however, combined with a serious application to scholarship to ensure for him a permanent position in the academic world.
Cranston was born in 1920, and he was educated at London University and St Catherine's College, Oxford. As a young man he mixed in mildly Bohemian literary circles, and was for a decade a close friend of the writer and painter Denton Welch. They met in 1938, when Cranston was 18 and living in Tunbridge Wells, and Welch was 23. Like so many of Welch's intimate friends, Cranston ended up as a character ('Markham') in a short story - 'Touchett's Party', published posthumously in Chance in 1953. In his Journals, Welch even accused Maurice Cranston of plagiarism, but Cranston was well rewarded for his forbearance. When Welch died in 1948 his lover, Eric Oliver, gave Cranston Welch's Louis XVI secretaire.
Cranston, who admitted in later life to being not a little in love with Denton Welch, made an early and unsuccessful marriage, to a girl called Helga, excluded, along with the name of his schools, from his entry in Who's Who. But when he was 38 he was married again, very happily, to Baroness Maximiliana von und zu Fraunberg. They had two sons.
After a part-time lectureship in Social Philosophy, at London University, Cranston joined LSE in 1959 as a lecturer in Political Science. He was promoted to a chair 10 years later. He held a number of visiting professorships in the US and France, and from 1976 to 1979 he was President of the Institut International de Philosophie Politique. From 1959 to 1969 he was Literary Adviser to Methuen.
Cranston's biography of John Locke, published in 1957, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He followed this success with a number of books, including, in 1962, a life of Jean-Paul Sartre, and in 1983 the first volume of a major study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Maurice Cranston was an immensely likeable and generous man, hospitable to his friends and helpful to younger writers. He enjoyed the irony of growing progressively, if in a libertarian way, more right-wing the longer he worked at LSE, but his spontaneity and the warmth of his conversation disarmed all those who disagreed with his views. He died while recording a programme about Baroness Thatcher's memoirs.
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