Frances Stonor Saunders

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Frances Hélène Jeanne Stonor Saunders FRSL (born 14 April 1966) is a British journalist and historian.

Early life[edit]

Frances Stonor Saunders is the daughter of Julia Camoys Stonor and Donald Robin Slomnicki Saunders. Her father, who died in 1997, was a Jewish refuge from Bucharest, Romania, born to a British national with Polish and Russian ancestry.[1][2] Jews named Slomnicki died in the Belzec extermination camp; the fate of two great-aunts Saunders was unable to determine. Her parents divorced when Saunders was eight.[3]


A few years after graduating (in 1987)[4] with a first-class honours degree in English from University of Oxford (having studied at St Anne's College),[5] Saunders embarked on a career as a television film-maker. Hidden Hands: A Different History of Modernism, made for Channel 4 in 1995, discussed the connection between American art critics and Abstract Expressionist painters with the CIA.[6] Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War (1999) (in the USA: The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters), her first book, was developed from her work on the documentary, concentrating on the history of the covertly CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom. The book won the Royal Historical Society's William Gladstone Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.[7] It has since been published in fifteen languages.[7] Saunders' other works reflects her academic background as a medievalist.

In 2005, after some years as the arts editor[8] and associate editor of the New Statesman, Saunders resigned in protest over the sacking of Peter Wilby, the then-editor. In 2004[9] and 2005[10] for Radio 3, she presented Meetings of Minds, two three-part series on the meetings of intellectuals at significant points in history. She is also a regular contributor to Radio 3's Nightwaves and other radio programmes.

Her second book, Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman (in the US: The Devil's Broker), recounts the life and career of John Hawkwood, a condottiere of the 14th century.[4] English-born, Hawkwood (1320–1394) made a notorious career as a participant in the confused and treacherous power politics of the Papacy, France, and Italy. The Woman Who Shot Mussolini (2010) is a biography of Violet Gibson,[11] the Anglo-Irish aristocrat who shot Benito Mussolini in 1926, wounding him slightly.

Of Saunders book, The Suitcase: Six Attempts to Cross a Border, Elisa Segrave wrote in The Spectator: "This is a complex, occasionally frustrating book with fascinating historical nuggets." The author "certainly brings home the anguish of war. She also examines memory, its importance and its unpredictability."[3] James McConnachie wrote in The Sunday Times: "As for that suitcase, it would be unfair to say more. I’ll only warn that the payoff isn’t a Hollywood explosion. It is more an arthouse twist — but one that, like this book, will haunt you."[1] Saunders was awarded the PEN Ackerley Prize for outstanding memoir and autobiography for The Suitcase: Six Attempts to Cross a Border in July 2022.[12]

Saunders was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018.[7] She lives in London.




  • Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War. London: Granta (1999). ISBN 1862070296.[13]
  • Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman. London: Faber and Faber (2004). ISBN 057121908X.
  • The Woman Who Shot Mussolini. London: Faber and Faber (2010). ISBN 978-0571239771.



  1. ^ a b McConnachie, James (30 May 2021). "The Suitcase by Frances Stonor Saunders, review — uncovering family secrets". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  2. ^ Moorehead, Caroline (22 October 2021). "Saturated sites". The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  3. ^ a b Segrave, Elisa (31 July 2021). "On the run from the Nazis: a Polish family's protracted ordeal". The Spectator. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Frances Stonor Saunders" (biography). Shadow Company.
  5. ^ Distinguished alumnae
  6. ^ Saunders, Frances Stonor (14 June 2013) [22 October 1995]. "Modern Art was CIA 'Weapon'". The Independent. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b c "Frances Stonor Saunders." Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original. Accessed January 16, 2020.
  8. ^ "Person Page — 7558." Archived from the original.
  9. ^ "Meetings of Minds", BBC Radio 3 page for first episode
  10. ^ "Meetings of Minds", BBC Radio 3 page for first episode of second run
  11. ^ Hughes-Hallett, Lucy. "The Woman Who Shot Mussolini by Frances Stonor Saunders". The Guardian, February 27, 2010. Archived from the original.
  12. ^ Brown, Lauren (15 July 2022). "PEN Ackerley Prize goes to Stoner Saunders' 'riveting' memoir of borders and belonging". The Bookseller. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  13. ^ Laqueur, Walter. "You Had to be There." Review of Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders. The National Interest, no. 58, 99 (2000), pp. 133-135. Archived from the original.
  14. ^ Baumol, William J., and Hilda Baumol. Review of The Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders. Journal of Cultural Economics, vol. 25, no. 1 (Feb. 2001), pp. 73-75. doi:10.1023/A:1007648425606.

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