Timothy Garton Ash

Garton Ash in 2019
Garton Ash in 2019
Born (1955-07-12) 12 July 1955 (age 68)
London, England
OccupationHistorian, author
Alma materExeter College, Oxford
St Antony's College, Oxford
Free University of Berlin
University of Berlin
Notable awardsCharlemagne Prize (2017)

Timothy Garton Ash CMG FRSA (born 12 July 1955) is a British historian, author and commentator. He is Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford. Most of his work has been concerned with the contemporary history of Europe, with a special focus on Central and Eastern Europe.

He has written about the former Communist regimes of that region, their experience with the secret police, the Revolutions of 1989 and the transformation of the former Eastern Bloc states into member states of the European Union. He has also examined the role of Europe in the world and the challenge of combining political freedom and diversity, especially in relation to free speech.


Garton Ash was born to John Garton Ash (1919–2014) and Lorna Judith Freke. His father was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge and was involved in finance, as well as being a Royal Artillery officer in the British Army during the Second World War.[1] Garton Ash was educated at St Edmund's School, Hindhead, Surrey,[2] before going on to Sherborne School, a public school in Dorset in South West England, followed by Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied Modern History.

For postgraduate study he went to St Antony's College, Oxford, and then, in the still divided Berlin, the Free University in West Berlin and the Humboldt University in East Berlin. During his studies in East Berlin, he was under surveillance from the Stasi, which served as the basis for his 1997 book The File.[3] Garton Ash cut a suspect figure to the Stasi, who regarded him as a "bourgeois-liberal" and potential British spy.[4]

Although he denies being or having been a British intelligence operative, Garton Ash described himself as a "soldier behind enemy lines" and described the German Democratic Republic as a "very nasty regime indeed".[4]

Pavel Žáček, Timothy Garton Ash and Kristian Gerner (Tallinn, 2012)

Life and career

In the 1980s Garton Ash was Foreign Editor of The Spectator and a columnist for The Independent. He became a Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford, in 1989, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution[5] in 2000, and Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford[6] in 2004. He has written a (formerly weekly) column in The Guardian since 2004 and is a long-time contributor to the New York Review of Books.[7] His column was also translated in the Turkish daily Radikal[8] and in the Spanish daily El País, as well as other newspapers.

In 2005, Garton Ash was listed in Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people.[9] The article says that "shelves are where most works of history spend their lives. But the kind of history Garton Ash writes is more likely to lie on the desks of the world's decision makers."


Garton Ash describes himself as a liberal internationalist.[10] He is a supporter of what he calls the free world and liberal democracy, represented in his view by the European Union, the United States as a superpower, and Angela Merkel's leadership of Germany. Garton Ash opposed Scottish independence and argued for Britishness, writing in The Guardian: "being British has changed into something worth preserving, especially in a world of migration where peoples are going to become ever more mixed up together. As men and women from different parts of the former British empire have come to live here in ever larger numbers, the post-imperial identity has become, ironically but not accidentally, the most liberal, civic, inclusive one."[11]

Garton Ash first came to prominence during the Cold War as a supporter of free speech and human rights within countries which were part of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, paying particular attention to Poland and Germany. In more recent times he has represented a British liberal pro-EU viewpoint, nervous at the rise of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Brexit. He is strongly opposed to conservative and populist leaders of EU nations, such as Viktor Orbán of Hungary, arguing that Merkel should "freeze him out", evoking "appeasement".[12] Garton Ash was particularly upset about Orbán's move against George Soros' Central European University.[12] Anti-Soviet themes and Poland remain topics of interest for Garton Ash; once a promoter of the anti-Eastern Bloc movement in Poland, he notes with regret the move away from liberalism and globalism towards populism and authoritarianism under socially conservative political and religious leaders such as Jarosław Kaczyński, in a similar manner to his criticisms of Hungary's Orbán.[13]

Personal life

Garton Ash and his Polish-born wife Danuta live primarily in Oxford, England, and also near Stanford University in California as part of his work with the Hoover Institution.[14] They have two sons, Tom Ash, a web developer based in Canada, and Alec Ash, an author and editor focused on China.[14] His elder brother, Christopher, is a Church of England clergyman.[15]


Awards and honours

See also


  1. ^ "John Garton Ash – obituary". The Telegraph. London. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  2. ^ "St. Ed's – OSE". saintedmunds.co.uk. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  3. ^ Garton Ash, Timothy (31 May 2007). "The Stasi on Our Minds". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b Glover, Michael (2 September 1998). "Memoirs of an inadvertent spy". The Independent. Archived from the original on 21 June 2022. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  5. ^ "Fellows: Timothy Garton Ash". Hoover Institution. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  6. ^ "Governing Body Fellows: Professor Timothy Garton Ash". St. Anthony's College. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  7. ^ "Timothy Garton Ash". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  8. ^ "timothy garton ash son dakika gelişmeleri ve haberleri Radikal'de!". Radikal (in Turkish). Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  9. ^ Ferguson, Niall (18 April 2005). "Timothy Garton Ash". TIME.com. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  10. ^ Garton Ash, Timothy (13 October 2016). "Liberal internationalists have to own up: we left too many people behind". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  11. ^ Garton Ash, Timothy (3 May 2007). "Independence for Scotland would not be good for England". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  12. ^ a b Garton Ash, Timothy (12 April 2017). "We know the price of appeasement. That's why we must stand up to Viktor Orbán". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  13. ^ Garton Ash, Timothy (7 January 2016). "The pillars of Poland's democracy are being destroyed". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Biography". timothygartonash.com. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  15. ^ Mesa, Ivan (3 August 2020). "On My Shelf: Life and Books with Christopher Ash". The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  16. ^ Ascherson, Neal (21 December 2023). "Becoming European". The New York Review of Books. 70 (20): 28–32.
  17. ^ "Premio di Giornalismo". premionapoli.it.
  18. ^ "Timothy Garton Ash :: Biography". timothygartonash.com.
  19. ^ "Eredoctoraten voor Maria Nowak, Timothy Garton Ash en Claudio Magris". Dagkrant Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (in Dutch). 22 December 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  20. ^ europeonline-magazine.eu, europe online publishing house gmbh -. "Historian Garton Ash receives Germany's Charlemagne Prize 2017 | EUROPE ONLINE". en.europeonline-magazine.eu. Retrieved 22 January 2017.