Spufford was born in 1964. He is the son of the late social historian Professor Margaret Spufford (1935 - 2014) and the economic historian Professor Peter Spufford. He studied English Literature at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, gaining a BA in 1985.
He was Chief Publisher's Reader from 1987–90 for Chatto & Windus.
Spufford has specialized in works of non-fiction for most of his career, but published his first unambiguous novel in 2016.
- I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination, 1996 - won literary prizes including the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, Writers Guild Award for Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year, and the Somerset Maugham Award in 1997.
- The Child That Books Built, 2002
- Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin, 2003 - nominated for the Aventis Prize
- Red Plenty, 2010 - longlisted for the Orwell Prize, and translated into Dutch, Spanish, Estonian, Polish, German, Russian and Italian, with versions in French and Turkish following. This is a fusion of history and fiction which dramatises the period in the history of the USSR (c.1960) when it seemed possible that communism could create greater abundance than capitalism. It is influenced by science fiction, and uses many of its tools, but is not itself SF.
- Unapologetic, 2012, translated into Dutch as Dit is Geen Verdediging, 2013, into Spanish as Impenitente and German as Heilige (Un)Vernunft!, 2014.
- Golden Hill, 2016 - won the Costa Book Award for a first novel
He has also edited three anthologies: The Chatto Book of Cabbages and Kings, 1989, about lists used as a literary device, The Chatto Book of the Devil, 1993, and The Antarctic, 2008.
He lives just outside Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He is a practising Christian and is married to a vicar, the Reverend Dr Jessica Martin, who is a Residentiary Canon of Ely Cathedral. In 2015, he was elected to General Synod as a lay representative of the Diocese of Ely.
- "Department of English & Comparative Literature: Francis Spufford". Goldsmiths College. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
- "The Somerset Maugham Awards: Past Winners". The Society of Authors. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
- "Costa Book of the Year: Sebastian Barry celebrates second win". BBC News. 31 January 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
- "Cathedral News". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
- "General Synod election results". Retrieved 12 December 2015.