Bertrand Russell

Born in 1872, son of Viscount Amberley, and heir to the Russell Earldom, Bertrand Russell ( and was to become one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. His early masterpiece Principia Mathematica,  set the course for the modern and post modern preoccupation with language; its philosophical ambitions are what drew Ludwig Wittgenstein from Vienna to Cambridge to study under the already famous Russell. But Russell’s interest in philosophy was only one aspect of his prodigious appetite for ideas. His anti-war pamphlets and protests got him expelled from the university and imprisoned. And his personal life was marked by the same promiscuous drive as his public one. The author of Marriage and Morals (1929) (, he boldly applied his free-thinking principles in his own most intimate relationships. His spectacular success in seducing women, both married and single, constituted a relentless challenge to the Victorian morality that was his aristocratic birthright. Russell’s avant-garde philosophy of free love combined with his principled pacificism would make him an icon of the international Left in the 1960s…. Russell’s was a protean life so vast in influence, relationships and interests that it is virtually a window on the major historical events of the twentieth century. This is the first biography to go behind Russell’s public life and reveal a complex and even contradictory character that has, until now, remained relatively obscure. Warm to him or not, this really was a life well lived.

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ broadcast from December 2012 available as a podcast at Contributions from AC Grayling, Mike Beaney and Hilary Greaves.

Follow up with A. C. Grayling, ‘Russell: A Very Short Introduction’ (Oxford University Press, 2002)

For something more in depth reach for Nicholas Griffin (ed.), ‘The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell’  (CambridgeUniversity Press, 2003)


For Russell’s own writing I’d start with ‘The Problems of Philosophy’ (1912) (


and ‘Why I am not a Christian’ (1927) (


Monk’s biography was published as 2 volumes:

Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude 1872–1921. London: Vintage, 1996.

Bertrand Russell: The Ghost of Madness 1921–1970. London: Vintage, 2001

600 pages in Vintage Press

ISBN 978-0099731313

Bertrand Russell            Ray Monk

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