He was born in Leeds, and educated at Shrewsbury School and Oxford University. His father Richard Wainwright was the Liberal MP for Colne Valley (1966–70, February 1974–87) after a career in accountancy.
Wainwright was The Guardian's Northern Editor for seventeen years until the end of 2012, when he was succeeded by Helen Pidd. His contributions to the newspaper have mostly reflected this emphasis but not exclusively.
He has written several books on northern or countryside topics, including a biography of the unrelated Alfred Wainwright and a guide to the Coast to Coast Walk. Other books are on the Morris Minor and Mini cars. He writes a blog about another interest, moths.
- Wainwright: the Man Who Loved the Lakes, 2007, BBC Books, ISBN 978-1-84607-294-9
- Guardian Book of the Countryside (By Ruth Petrie & Martin Wainwright), 2008, Cornerstone, ISBN 978-0-85265-109-4
- A Mini Adventure: 50 years of the iconic small car, 2009, Aurum Press, ISBN 978-1-84513-471-6
- True North 2009, Guardian Books, ISBN 978-0-85265-213-8
- Morris Minor; the Biography: sixty years of Britain's favourite car 2010, Aurum Press, ISBN 978-1-84513-509-6
- The Coast to Coast Walk (Recreational Path Guides), 2010 (revised ed), Aurum Press, ISBN 978-1-84513-560-7
- Wild City: Encounters with Urban Wildlife, 25 May 2011, Aurum Press, ISBN 978-1-84513-529-4
- Martin Wainwright "The Northerner - into 2013", The Guardian (blog), 31 December 2012
- "Martin Wainwright: Profile". The Guardian. London. 3 October 2007. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- Barnes, John (5 Feb 2003). "Obituary: Richard Wainwright". The Independent. London. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
- "Martin Wainwright". Journalisted. Retrieved 14 February 2011. (Listing of published articles)
- Wainwright, Martin (20 December 2010). "Ministers fight to keep Queen's head on stamps after sell-off". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- "Martin's Moths". Retrieved 15 February 2011.
- The London Gazette: . 30 December 1999.
- "University of Leeds honours outstanding achievements". University News. University of Leeds. July 11, 2013. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
- "The Scurrah Wainwright Charity". The Wainwright Trusts. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Charity Commission. The Scurrah Wainwright Charity, registered charity no. 1002755.
- "The Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust". The Wainwright Trusts. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- "Oliver Wainwright". The Guardian. London. 3 October 2012.
- Wainwright, Oliver (22 November 2006). "Games on". The Guardian. London.
- Tom Wainwright at economist.com
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