Peter Ackroyd (born 5 October 1949, East Acton, London) is an English author.
Ackroyd has always shown a great interest in the city of London, and one of his best known works, London: The Biography, is an extensive and thorough discussion of London through the ages. In 1994 he was interviewed about the London Psychogeographical Association in an article for The Observer where he remarked:
- "I truly believe that there are certain people to whom or through whom the territory, the place, the past speaks . . . Just as it seems possible to me that a street or dwelling can materially affect the character and behaviour of the people who dwell in them, is it not also possible that within this city (London) and within its culture are patterns of sensibility or patterns of response which have persisted from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and perhaps even beyond?" 'Cultists' Go Round in Circles', Barry Hugill, The Observer, Sunday, 28 August 1994
Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, and his father left the family home when Peter Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers at the age of 5 and wrote a play about Guy Fawkes
, aged nine. He also reputedly first realised he was gay at the age of 7.
Ackroyd was educated at St. Benedict's, Ealing and at Clare College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a double first in English and was a Mellon Fellow at Yale University, in the United States.
His career started in poetry, including works such as London Lickpenny (1973) and The Diversions of Purley (1987). He later moved into fiction and has become an acclaimed author, winning the 1998 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for the biography Thomas More and being shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1987.
Ackroyd worked at The Spectator magazine between 1973 and 1977 and became joint managing editor in 1978. He was nominated a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1984 and is currently a regular radio broadcaster and book critic.
More recently, he has written London: The Biography (2000), and followed this with the most scholarly yet of his popular books, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination (2002), a work of intellectual history that traces themes in English culture from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present.
In the New Year's honours list of 2003, Ackroyd was given a CBE
From 2003 to 2005, Ackroyd wrote a six-book non-fiction series (Voyages Through Time), intended for readers as young as eight. This was his first work for children. The critically acclaimed series ("Not just sound-bite snacks for short attention spans, but unfolding feasts that leave you with a sense of wonder", The Sunday Times) is an extensive narrative of key periods in world history.
Children's non-fiction (Voyages Through Time series)
- The Beginning – 2003
- Escape From Earth – 2004
- Kingdom of the Dead – 2004
- Cities of Blood – 2004
- Ancient Greece – 2005
- Ancient Rome – 2005
Television / documentary
BBC unless otherwise noted
- 2002 Dickens
- 2004, London
- 2006 The Romantics
- 2007 London Visions, (documentary series) Artsworld. See a review here
- 2008 Peter Ackroyd's Thames ITV
Ackroyd's reviews of other writers' work