Timothy Charles William Blanning was born on 21 April 1942. After attending the King's School in Bruton, he went up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree and then continuing to complete his doctorate there; his PhD was awarded in 1967. In 1965, he was elected to a research fellowship at Sidney Sussex, and in 1968 was elected to a fellowship there. In the meantime, he was appointed to an assistant lectureship at the University of Cambridge in 1972, being promoted to lecturer four years later. He was promoted again to be Reader in Modern European History in 1987, and was appointed Professor of Modern European History in 1992. He retired in 2009, but remains at Cambridge as an emeritus professor.
Blanning's first book, Reform and Revolution in Mainz, 1743–1803 (1974), offered a case study which could examine the German Problem, the idea that modern Germany began moving apart from Western Europe in political and cultural terms; Blanning sought to demonstrate that this process began in the eighteenth century, whereas earlier historians had emphasised the nineteenth century as a more important period. His second book, The French Revolution in Germany: Occupation and Resistance in the Rhineland, 1792–1802, was published in 1983, and the French Revolution was also the subject of Blanning's The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars (1986), The French Revolution: Aristocrats versus Bourgeois? (1987; a second edition was published in 1998 as The French Revolution: Class War or Culture Clash?) and The French Revolutionary Wars (1996). In the meantime, he turned to the Habsburg monarchy and produced a biography of the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II in 1994; he has also published biographies of George I (2017) and Frederick the Great of Prussia (2015), the latter of which won the British Academy Medal in 2016.
Since the early 2000s, Blanning's work has also focused on cultural histories of Europe, beginning in 2002 with his book The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture; this was followed by The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648–1815 (2006), The Triumph of Music: Composers, Musicians and Audiences, 1700 to the Present (2008) and The Romantic Revolution (2011).
In 1990, Blanning was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA). In September 2016, he was awarded the British Academy Medal for his book Frederick the Great: King of Prussia (2015). Blanning was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Cambridge in 1998.
- Joseph II and Enlightened Despotism (Longman, 1970)
- Reform and Revolution in Mainz, 1743–1803 (Cambridge University Press, 1974)
- The French Revolution in Germany: Occupation and Resistance in the Rhineland, 1792-1802 (Oxford University Press, 1983)
- The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars (Longman, 1986)
- The French Revolution: Aristocrats versus Bourgeois? (Macmillan, 1987)
- Joseph II (Longman, 1994)
- The French Revolutionary Wars 1787-1802 (Edward Arnold, 1996)
- The French Revolution: Class War or Culture Clash? (Macmillan, 1997)
- The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe, 1660-1789 (Oxford University Press, 2002)
- The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648–1815 (Penguin, 2007)
- The Triumph of Music: The Rise of Composers, Musicians and Their Art (2008)
- The Romantic Revolution: A History (2011)
- Frederick the Great: King of Prussia (Allen Lane, 2015)
- George I: The Lucky King (Allen Lane, 2017)
- The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern Europe (Oxford University Press, 1996)
- The Rise and Fall of the French Revolution (Chicago University Press, 1996)
- with David Cannadine (eds.), History and Biography: Essays in Honour of Derek Beales (Cambridge, 1996)
- with Peter Wende (eds.), Reform in Great Britain and Germany, 1750-1850 (Oxford, 1999)
- The Short Oxford History of Europe, vol. 8: The Eighteenth Century and vol. 9: The Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2000)
- The Oxford History of Modern Europe (Oxford University Press, 2000)
- with Hagen Schulze (eds.), Unity and Diversity in European Culture c. 1800 (Oxford, 2006)
- "Blanning, Prof. Timothy Charles William", Who's Who (online edition, Oxford University Press, December 2017). Retrieved 17 July 2018.
- "Reform and Revolution in Mainz, 1743–1803 ", Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
- "British Academy announces 2016 prizes and medal winners". British Academy. 27 September 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
- "Professor Timothy Blanning". British Academy. Retrieved 30 July 2017.