Philip Short was born in Bristol, England, in 1945 and was educated at Sherborne and Queens’ College, Cambridge. He worked for the BBC for 30 years as a foreign correspondent, initially in Central and East Africa and then in Moscow, Beijing, Paris, Tokyo and Washington. He then spent a year teaching comparative politics at the University of Iowa and in 2018-2019 was a visiting fellow at the Dickey Center for International Relations at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. He lives with his wife and daughter in southern France.
His first book, a life of the Malawi leader, Hastings Banda, was published in 1974. The Dragon and the Bear, a comparison between China after Mao and the Soviet Union after Stalin followed in 1982. His biography of Mao Zedong, widely regarded as the definitive account of the life of the Chinese leader, was published in Britain in 1999 and the United States a year later; it has been translated into a dozen languages, including Chinese and Russian. A revised edition incorporating new archival material, Mao: The Man Who Made China, was published in London in 2017. His other books include The History of a Nightmare, a biography of the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot; and A Study in Ambiguity, a life of the French President, François Mitterrand. In 2022, after eight years of research, he completed a life of Vladimir Putin, published by Penguin Random House in the UK and MacMillan in the US.