Professor Peter Flynn England Brazil

Biography of Professor Peter Flynn

Professor Peter Flynn
Professor Peter Flynn

Peter Flynn was born in Murton, County Durham, on 30th December 1935.

He went up to Oxford University in September 1957 and was awarded a Licenciate in Philosophy with First Class Honours in January 1964. During the summer of 1959 he spent time in Vienna, learning German which he could speak fluently. Peter then studied Modern History at Balliol College Oxford, and in 1962 he became the President of Oxford University History Society and also won the distinguished Stanhope Historical Essay Prize for an outstanding piece of work on the 14th Century French chronicler Jean Froissart, learning to read 14th century French in the process.

From 1964, Peter started research on Brazil as Senior Scholar at St Antony’s College Oxford where he continued until 1967. In August 1965, he was Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University, New York, where he made many friends and academic colleagues as well as a long lasting friendship with the noted Brazilian sociologist Florestan Fernandes, then exiled from Brazil.

In November of that year he sailed to Rio de Janeiro to begin research on the Revolutionary Legion and the Brazilian Revolution of 1930, a significant event in Brazil’s modern history. In the course of this he made many academic and personal friends at all levels of Brazilian society and experienced life in Brazil immediately after the military coup of 1964. In 1968, he was awarded the Rio Branco Prize for his work on the Legion.

In 1966 he accepted a lectureship in Latin American Studies at the University of Glasgow, before becoming Lecturer in Latin American Politics at the University of Liverpool from 1968 until 1972. He extended his knowledge of Latin America during this time with study visits to Mexico and a number of the Spanish speaking countries, including Chile to assess the early Salvador Allende government and meeting Fidel Castro. All this added to his natural enthusiasm in lecturing and teaching about all aspects of the region.

In 1971 he was Visiting Professor at the Universidad Catolica de Chile in Santiago, followed in 1978 by a period as Visiting Professor at the Universidad Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro. One year later he was approached to become Professor of Politics in Flinders University of South Australia but declined as his cultural attachment to Europe, as he spoke Italian, Spanish and Portuguese with fluency, prevailed.

An opportunity arose in 1972 to become Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Glasgow where he remained Director and Head of Department until it closed in 1997. Peter emphasised the study of Chile, with a number of Chilean exiles taking up studentships in Glasgow in the aftermath of the coup there, as well as Paraguay, Venezuela, and Mexico, but his natural emphasis was to enlarge the knowledge of Brazil and its people through detailed research projects and initiatives. He was regularly asked to brief Ministers, politicians, and members of the Foreign Office about the state of current affairs in Brazil.

In 1991, he established and became Chairman of the innovative, multi-disciplinary, and multi-institutional Centre for Amazonian Studies, based in Glasgow from 1991-2001. This Centre coordinated a wealth of academic talent then working on many disciplines of Amazonian study in Scotland at different institutions. It was, at that time, a novel initiative to combine research interaction in the natural, social, and some medical sciences to an area of South America which was increasingly under severe threat of development without environmental understanding.

Stemming from this was his contribution as consultant to European Community and to the G7 on Brazilian Amazônia. Peter was appointed to a Personal Professorship of Latin American Studies in 1995 and remained active and greatly interested in Brazil, its politics and people throughout his life. This was a characteristic of his teaching and lecturing which combined rigorous academic principles and a deep understanding and enthusiasm for the people and the country.

He contributed to many aspects of University life, being a keen member and user of the Stevenson Building, encouraging student to develop both mind and physical development during their time in Glasgow. Peter served on every Faculty Committee, as well as being Head of Department for 25 uninterrupted years. He produced over 43 articles and publications, many of these resulting from hard won research projects and regular time in Brazil, as well as contributing to teaching, conferences, and workshops internationally and within the UK.

He was a regular commentator for television and radio on Brazilian affairs and also at the time of the Falklands War. For many years he was a contributor to the BBC World Service and his interviews were often heard in many far flung countries and isolated locations. His major work, Brazil: a political analysis was published in 1978. It analysed the course of Brazilian history and politics from the end of the 19th century to the events resulting from the military led coup in 1964. It received international acclaim and much respect in Brazil as well as in the United States.

He continued publication on political change in Brazil, notably in a series of extended articles in a number of international journals which provided contemporary analysis of the economic crises and presidential administrations of Fernando Collor, Fernando HenriqueCardoso, and Luis Ignacio da Silva (Lula). They provided assessment of the social change from military presidents to the subsequent return of democratic government from 1984 onwards. This was an ongoing study of Peter’s and he was a prolific contributor on Brazil to encyclopaedia of political biography and Latin American politics and economy as well as advising on aspects of conflict and conciliation in the country.

Professor Peter Flynn died peacefully at St Margaret’s Hospice, Clydebank, on Sunday 3 April 2016.


Professor Peter Flynn
Modern Historian

Born 30 December 1935.
Died 3 April 2016.
GU Degree:
University Link: Lecturer, Professor
Occupation categories: academics; historians; Latin American Studies; modern historian; Professor in Latin American Studies; professors
Additional Information: Biography kindly provided by Elizabeth Allen
Record last updated: 2nd May 2018

Country Associations

England England
Place of Birth

Brazil Brazil

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University Roles

  • Lecturer
  • Professor

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