Identity Statement for Patrick Cosgrave

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P233
  • Title: Papers of Patrick Cosgrave (1941–2001)
  • Dates: 1963–2001
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 6 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use

Biographical history

Patrick John Cosgrave was born in Dublin on 28 September 1941, an only child, whose father died from cancer when he was ten years old. His mother worked as a cleaner to support him, but his childhood was an impoverished one. He attended St Vincent’s Christian Brothers’ School in Glasnevin, where the Roman Catholic piety of his teachers, echoed by his mother, led him to rebel against their orthodox thinking. Aged fourteen, he was forced to spend a year in bed convalescing after a bout of rheumatic fever. He spent this time immersing himself in British history, reading such authors as Lord Salisbury, Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence and Rudyard Kipling. This, combined with his distaste for Catholicism and Irish nationalism, led to his adopting a staunchly pro-British attitude.

At University College Dublin he was greatly influenced by Desmond Williams, professor of modern history. He was an active member of the Literary and Historical Society, winning (with Anthony Clare) the Observer Mace debating competition over every other university debating team in Great Britain and Ireland. He was also elected auditor of the society.

His was an illustrious academic career. He attained a First in his BA in History and Modern Irish History, and a Masters by dissertation (Peter Walsh and the Irish Remonstrance Movement, 1660-66) in 1967. Cosgrave went on to a doctorate in history from Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1970, his thesis entitled Sir Edward Grey and British Foreign Policy in the Balkans, 1914-16. His supervisor at Peterhouse was Herbert Butterfield, who proved to be another major influence on him. In 1969 his book The Public Poetry of Robert Lowell was published.

Having previously freelanced for RTÉ, Cosgrave became their first London editor in 1968. His strong support for the British Conservative Party led, in 1969, to his joining the Conservative Research Department, where he specialised in Home Office affairs. It was here that he developed a keen interest in Israeli affairs and became a committed Zionist. This later manifested itself in his writing, and in his involvement with the Jewish education and vocational training charity Organisation through Rehabilitation and Training (ORT). In 1977 he co-presented, with Paul Johnson, an edition of the BBC 2 series Open Door entitled ‘To Live in Peace’, which explored the current situation in Israel.

His journalistic skills were recognised in 1971 when he was appointed political and deputy editor of The Spectator, later moving on to become the features editor of The Telegraph Magazine. Between 1975 and 1979 Cosgrave was a Special Advisor to Margaret Thatcher. While this advisory role ceased after the general election of 1979, he continued his involvement in the party and corresponded with various Conservative members of Parliament. He remained a great admirer of Thatcher, eventually writing two books about her: Margaret Thatcher: A Tory and Her Party and Thatcher: The First Term. He was briefly managing editor of Quartet Crime (part of Quartet Books) at this time.

A freelance writing career followed. He was represented in this by literary agent Mike Shaw of the Curtis Brown agency, with whom he corresponded over many years. Several other political biographies authored by Cosgrave were published throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including Churchill at War: AloneR.A. Butler: An English LifeCarrington: A Life and a Policy; and The Lives of Enoch Powell. The latter was written with the cooperation of Powell, who gave Cosgrave exclusive access to his private archive. As a freelance journalist he wrote for many publications, including The Times, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Wall Street Journal, theDaily Express, the Irish Times, the Irish Press, the Literary Review, the American Spectator, Encounter, and the National Review. He wrote many obituaries, particularly for The Independent, and also had several adventure novels published.

Cosgrave had a great interest in international affairs, corresponding and collaborating at length with Lieutenant Colonel George Richey about defence issues. This culminated in their production of a pamphlet entitled NATO’s Strategy: A Case of Outdated Priorities. He also corresponded for several years with the American freelance political consultant and journalist Peter Witonski.

Cosgrave was married three times: to Ruth Dudley Edwards in 1965 (marriage dissolved), to Norma Green in 1974 (marriage dissolved) and to Shirley Ward in 1981. He had one daughter, Rebecca, born in 1974. He died in London on 15 September 2001 at the age of 59.

Archival History

This collection was deposited in UCD Archives by Shirley Cosgrave in July 2007.

Scope and Content

Notes, outlines, drafts and other material relating to both completed and planned books, articles and other pieces of writing.

Correspondence with members of the Conservative Party, including Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Correspondence with colleagues from UCD.

Extensive correspondence with both George Richey and Peter Witonski.

General correspondence, 1983-2001.

Material relating to Cosgrave’s interest in Israeli and Jewish affairs: articles and, speeches, correspondence, production materials from his ‘To Live in Peace’ edition of Open Door.

Material relating to his participation in the Jewish charity ORT, including his trip to South Africa to speak at their conference.

Material relating to his literary agents, Curtis Brown, including extensive correspondence with his agent Mike Shaw, contracts and royalty statements.


  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket.Produced for consultation in microform.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue