Jupp, Peter (1940–2006), historian, was born in Hackney, London, on 20 August 1940, son of James Jupp and his wife Lillian (née Gray). His father, a bus driver, was a staunch Conservative while his mother, a school secretary, supported the Labour party; Jupp later recalled that his political education began with listening to family arguments on both historical and contemporary events. He was a good boyhood swimmer and soccer player, and though from east London, a staunch and lifelong supporter of Tottenham Hotspur. Educated at Dame Alice Owen's, the grammar school then in Islington, where his interest in history was consolidated by Mr Dare, a history teacher known as 'Dan' Dare, he then won a scholarship to Reading University, where he studied under the eighteenth-century historian Arthur Aspinall (1901–72), who eventually bequeathed to Jupp his large collection of notes and transcriptions of historical documents. These, combined with the fruits of Jupp's own explorations of country-house archives, formed the mainstay of his research, and he was extremely generous in sharing them with students.
After taking a final-year undergraduate special course on British politics from 1815 to 1832 (which aroused his interest in Daniel O'Connell (qv) and in extra-parliamentary pressure groups more generally), he undertook a Ph.D. dissertation on Irish MPs elected to Westminster between the act of union and the 1832 reform act. Aspinall suggested the subject because it could co-exist with his own work in connexion with the official History of parliament; much of Jupp's research was later incorporated in the form of constituency entries in the volumes of this project treating the Commons 1790–1820 (1986), edited by R. G. Thorne. Jupp also drew on his dissertation for his first book, British and Irish elections 1784–1831 (1973), an edited collection of source material with commentary.
In 1964 Jupp became lecturer in modern history at the Queen's University of Belfast (QUB), where he worked for the remainder of his career; he subsequently became reader in modern British history and held a chair in British history (1993–2005). He was a long-serving head of department, during which time he took on the arduous responsibility of organising and chairing the annual Wiles lectures (enhancing those occasions with warm hospitality and unfailing good humour). On relinquishing the departmental headship he was briefly dean of the faculty of arts. He was particularly close to Michael Roberts, who had moved from concentration on early-nineteenth-century British politics to becoming a leading expert on Swedish history. Roberts (whose Festschrift Jupp eventually co-edited) encouraged him to take account of broader European perspectives in his work. Jupp was a popular lecturer, whose special courses on British history were renowned; his ebullient personality and neat appearance were familiar to habitués of the history department. He was a strong believer in academic collegiality during a time when this view of university life was progressively displaced by more bureaucratic forms of administration, and played a prominent role in sustaining the scholarly and extra-curricular life of department and university when the Northern Ireland troubles placed these under pressure. As head of department and dean of arts, Jupp favoured a consensus approach (sometimes with frustrating results).
Jupp was a magnanimous supervisor, as proud of his students' discoveries as of his own; even non-history students who approached him with queries about peripheral areas of their own research found him patient and stimulating. Despite his focus on documentary sources he believed that historians should ideally study the art, architecture, and other artefacts of the society they examined. He had a large collection of Georgian printed caricatures, which he deployed in research and teaching. He was renowned for organising student field trips that combined tours of stately homes with visits to jazz clubs. For many years he arranged the Guinness International Jazz Spot as part of the annual Belfast Festival at Queen's, using his contacts to invite many distinguished jazz musicians to come to Northern Ireland; he also acted as disc jockey at history students' dances. A family man and dog owner, he enjoyed fly-fishing, driving his Triumph TR4, and playing tennis and bridge. He was a staunch supporter and for many years a member of the board of directors of the university bookshop (eventually closed by the university administration in 2011 as a cost-saving measure).
Jupp saw his published research as driven by a series of methodological experiments; although the late-Georgian political elite lay at the centre of his research interests, he did not see 'high politics' as unaffected by popular pressures, and his central concern was to explore the relationship between them. (He told an interviewer that while he studied aristocrats and appreciated the style of country-house life, this should not be equated with right-wing political views or idealisation of aristocracies as such.) In 1985 he published Lord Grenville 1759–1834, generally regarded as the definitive biography of William Wyndham Grenville (qv); no previous biography had been undertaken of this major collaborator of Pitt and Fox, primarily because Grenville was a reserved man, who left no descendants, and whose changing factional allegiances did not fit neatly into the retrospective genealogies constructed by later politicians. Jupp's work filled a major gap and in so doing secured his own reputation as a scholar.
Lord Grenville was not intended to be simply a biography; Jupp aimed to explore the world of the late-Georgian governing elite through the life of a representative member. He followed this book with published work that took an openly structural approach to the subject, culminating in his detailed analysis of the working of parliament and government at the very end of the 'unreformed constitution': British politics on the eve of reform: the duke of Wellington's administration, 1828–1830 (1998) grew out of an undergraduate special subject course and an abiding interest in the political role of the 1st duke of Wellington (qv). The book represents more than two decades of detailed research and mature reflection, and in many respects stands as Jupp's chef d'oeuvre. This, and indeed most of his subsequent work, contributed to an ongoing scholarly reassessment of the view that the 1832 reform act had been the culmination of a middle-class-led protest movement against an aristocratic ancient regime, and had marked a major break in British political history. (A late paper argued that Disraeli's political novels, with their emphasis on society intrigue, were closer to real events than many critics had hitherto believed.) Jupp was a leading representative of those scholars who argued that the pre-reform elite had been neither monolithic nor detached from wider society, that the unreformed system had allowed for widespread popular participation (however symbolic or constrained), and that it was the second reform act of 1867 which marked the break between the old style of politics and the new.
During his research for British politics, Jupp discovered Mark Harrison's Crowds and history: mass phenomena in English towns, 1790–1835 (1988), which he viewed as a neglected classic. From the late nineteenth century onwards, studies of crowds had been dominated by the idea that they were spontaneous phenomena of popular protest, directed against elites (a view shared by right-wing haters of anarchy and left-wing celebrants of popular justice). Harrison had produced a wider typology of crowds, showing that they were driven by a wide range of motives and generally occupied a political space tolerated (if not actively organised) by local (sometimes competing) elites. Jupp drew on Harrison in his exploration of the relationship between parliamentary and popular politics in British politics, and (with Eoin Magennis) organised a Wiles colloquium at Queen's in 1998 with the aim of applying Harrison's approach to the Irish context. This resulted in an essay collection, Crowds in Ireland, c.1720–1920, edited by Jupp and Magennis (2000).
Jupp retired in 2005 as emeritus professor, though he continued to take an active interest in the QUB school of history. He intended to spend his retirement writing up much of his research, and indeed began with the completion of The governing of Britain, 1688–1848: the executive, parliament, and the people (2006), a project on which he had been working for some years. An analytical survey of government and politics in the long eighteenth century, showing formidably detailed research as well as an enviable understanding of the longue durée of Georgian politics, it was envisaged as a measured contribution to the often heated (in Jupp's view over-heated) debates about the nature of state and society in this period. However, by the time of its publication historical controversy had moved on and the book did not make the kind of impact it undoubtedly would have done had it appeared some years earlier. Jupp had considerable plans for further publications, including a comparative study of associational culture in a number of British, Irish and continental eighteenth-century port cities, lives of William IV and George Canning (whose letter-journal for the years 1793–5 he had edited for the Camden series in 1991), and an edition of the extensive manuscript journals of the third Earl Grey.
The governing of Britain appeared only weeks before Jupp's death from a cancerous kidney tumour on 14 September 2006 in Belfast. A crowded memorial service in the Great Hall at Queen's was testimony to his popularity. A Festschrift written by colleagues and graduate students, and reflecting the major themes of his work, appeared in 2007; it had originally been intended to mark his retirement. It includes a select bibliography.
Jupp met his wife, Belinda Penney, while studying at Reading. They married in 1961 and had a daughter and son.