Neal Ascherson

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Appearing on television discussion programme After Dark in 1987

Charles Neal Ascherson (born 5 October 1932) is a Scottish journalist and writer.


Ascherson was born in Edinburgh on 5 October 1932.[1] He was awarded a scholarship to Eton.[2] Before going to university, he did his National Service as an officer in the Royal Marines, serving from July 1951[3] to September 1952,[4] and seeing combat in Malaya.[2] He then attended King's College, Cambridge, where he read history and graduated with a triple starred first degree.[2] The historian Eric Hobsbawm was his tutor at Cambridge and described Ascherson as "perhaps the most brilliant student I ever had. I didn't really teach him much, I just let him get on with it."[1] He is a member of the semi-secretive Cambridge Apostles society, a debating club largely reserved for the brightest students.


After graduating he declined offers to pursue an academic career.[1] Instead, he chose a career in journalism, first at The Manchester Guardian and then at The Scotsman (1959–1960), The Observer (1960–1990) and The Independent on Sunday (1990–1998).[2] He contributed scripts for the documentary series The World at War (1973–74) and the Cold War (1998). He has also been a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.[2]

Ascherson has lectured and written extensively about Polish and Eastern Europe affairs.[5][6]

In the 1999 election for the Scottish Parliament he stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the West Renfrewshire constituency but was not successful.[7]

As of 2016 Ascherson is a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.[8][2] He has been editor of Public Archaeology, an academic journal associated with UCL devoted to CRM and public archaeology issues and developments, since its inception in 1999.[9]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1991 Ascherson was awarded an honorary degree from the Open University as Doctor of the University.[10]On St Andrew's Day 2011 at their Anniversary Meeting the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland elected Ascherson an Honorary Fellow.

Personal life[edit]

Neal Ascherson's first wife was Corinna Adam; the couple first met at Cambridge University and married in 1958. They had two daughters together before separating in 1974. The couple divorced in 1982.[11] Corinna Ascherson, also a journalist, died in March 2012.[11][12] In 1984, he married his second wife, the journalist Isabel Hilton.[1] The couple currently live in London and have two (now adult) children, Iona and Alexander. His aunt was the British actress Renée Asherson.[13]



  1. ^ a b c d Wroe, Nicholas (12 April 2003). "Romantic nationalist". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The SRB Interview: Neal Ascherson", Scottish Review of Books, Musselburgh, Scotland, 3 August 2014, retrieved 26 January 2017 
  3. ^ "No. 39293". The London Gazette. 24 July 1951. p. 3994. 
  4. ^ "No. 39657". The London Gazette. 30 September 1952. p. 5149. 
  5. ^ "UK writer Neal Ascherson discusses NATO, EU on Prague visit". Radio Prague. 2004. Retrieved 13 May 2004. 
  6. ^ "Neal Ascherson - fascinating memories of the Soviet invasion and much more". Radio Prague. 2004. Retrieved 8 June 2004. 
  7. ^ "Vote 99: Scotland Constituencies & Regions. Renfrewshire West". BBC News. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  8. ^ "People: Staff: Honorary". Our Staff. UCL Institute of Archaeology. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Carman, John (2002). Archaeology and Heritage: An Introduction. London and New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-5894-7. OCLC 48140490. 
  10. ^ "Neal Ascherson books | Folio Biography". Retrieved 2017-01-17. 
  11. ^ a b "Corinna Ascherson". The Times. 29 March 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2015.  (subscription required)
  12. ^ Pavan Amara "Rhyl Street flat blaze victim, Corinna Ascherson, an idealistic socialist once one half of ‘journalism’s golden couple’" Archived 8 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Camden New Journal, 15 March 2012
  13. ^ Pendreigh, Brian (6 October 2014). "Obituary: Renée Asherson, actress". The Scotsman. Retrieved 5 January 2015. 

External links[edit]