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I was educated at Shakespeare’s grammar school, King Edward VI’s, in Stratford-upon-Avon and at Merton College, Oxford. Awarded a postmaster scholarship in modern history, I won the university’s HWC Davis prize and graduated with a First in 1972. I took up a research scholarship at St John’s College, Oxford but left academia in mid-1974 to work in the City.
After five years as a banker in New York and London, including a seven-month sabbatical in the Middle East to study Arabic at the British Foreign Office school in the Lebanon, I joined the Financial Times in 1979 as a specialist writer on Arab affairs. I worked at the FT for six years, latterly working on investigative feature articles. This role led me to cover the privatisation of British Airways and the story of its battle with Freddie Laker, which prompted me to write a first book — Struggle for Take-Off, The Story of British Airways, which was published by Coronet Books in 1986.
From 1985 to 1989 I was a consultant with McKinsey & Co in the firm’s London office. I then returned to journalism in 1989, joining The Economist as editor of its Britain section for three years before moving to New York as its US business correspondent.
Between 1994 and 2006, I worked in a variety of corporate roles: as a publisher with Penguin Books, as in-house head of communications for two FTSE-100 companies, Pearson plc and Rolls-Royce plc, and as a communications consultant with the London-based public relations agency, The Maitland Consultancy.
I have worked full-time as a free-lance writer and historian since 2006 and hold a Senior Fellowship at London University’s Institute of Historical Research. My publications to date include Follow The Money: The Audit Commission, Public Money and the Management of Public Services 1983-2008, which was published by Penguin Allen Lane in March 2008, and Masters of the Post: The Authorized History of the Royal Mail, published by Penguin Allen Lane in November 2011.
From 2012 to 2016 I worked on a commissioned history of the Standard Chartered Bank. With generous support from the Group, I was able to travel widely in tracing the separate stories of The Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (from the 1850s) and the Standard Bank of South Africa (from the 1860s) as well as the evolution of the modern Group that was formed through a merger of the two antecedent banks in 1969. Publication by Penguin Allen Lane had to be postponed in October 2016, but is now expected to be rescheduled for the first half of 2021.
I have been preoccupied since early 2017 with researching and writing my biography of Sir Frank Whittle, Jet Man, to be published later this year.
I live in a village at the heart of the beautiful Kentish Weald, an hour’s train journey south of London, with my second wife Morwenna who is a professional musician. As well as being Director of Music at the parish church, she also presides from our home over the many online activities of the Royal College of Organists and has her own website at www.theladyorganist.com which I promote at every opportunity. The same goes for the artistic legacy of my late wife, the painter Anne-Catherine Phillips, who died in 2014. Copies of a biography, Anne-Catherine, A Painter’s Life are available on request and an online archive of her work can be found at www.annecatherine-phillips.co.uk