Richard Adams

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For other people named Richard Adams, see Richard Adams (disambiguation).
Richard Adams
Richard Adams 20081116.jpg
Born Richard George Adams
(1920-05-09) 9 May 1920 (age 96)
Newbury, Berkshire, England
Occupation Novelist
Nationality English
Notable works Watership Down, Shardik, The Plague Dogs, The Girl in a Swing
Notable awards Carnegie Medal
Guardian Prize


Richard George Adams (born 9 May 1920) is an English novelist who is known as the author of Watership Down, Shardik and The Plague Dogs. He studied modern history at university before serving in the British Army during World War II. Afterward he completed his studies and then joined the British Civil Service. In 1974, two years after Watership Down was published, Adams became a full-time author. He is now semi-retired.[1]

Early life[edit]

Adams was born on 9 May 1920 in Wash Common near Newbury, Berkshire, England. He attended Horris Hill School from 1926 to 1933, and then Bradfield College from 1933 to 1938. In 1938, he went to Worcester College, Oxford, to read Modern History. In July 1940, Adams was called up to join the British Army. He was posted to the Royal Army Service Corps and was selected for the Airborne Company, where he worked as a brigade liaison. He served in Palestine, Europe and the Far East but saw no direct action against either the Germans or the Japanese.[2]

After being released from the army in 1946, Adams returned to Worcester College to continue his studies for a further two years. He took the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in 1948 and Master of Arts in 1953.[3][4] After his BA graduation in 1948, Adams joined the British Civil Service and held the rank of Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, later part of the Department of the Environment. It was during this period that he began writing fiction in his spare time.


Adams had originally begun telling the story of Watership Down to his two daughters, and they insisted that he publish it as a book. It took two years to write. In 1972, after four publishers and three writers' agencies had turned down the manuscript for Watership Down, Rex Collings agreed to publish the work.[5] The book gained international acclaim almost immediately.

Over the next few years Watership Down sold over a million copies worldwide and became a modern literary classic. Adams won both of the two most prestigious British children's book awards, one of six authors to do so: the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.[6][7][a] In 1974, following publication of his second novel, Shardik, he left the Civil Service to become a full-time author. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1975.[8]

At one point, Adams served as Writer in Residence at the University of Florida[9] and at Hollins University in Virginia.[1] Adams was the recipient of the inaugural Whitchurch Arts Award for inspiration in January 2010, presented at the Watership Down pub in Freefolk, Hampshire.[10][11] In 2015 he was awarded a D. Litt. honoris causa by the University of Winchester.

Public figure[edit]

In 1982, Adams served one year as President of the RSPCA.[1] He also made a voyage through the Antarctic in the company of Ronald Lockley, the well-known ornithologist. Just before his 90th birthday, he wrote a new story for a charity book, Gentle Footprints, to raise funds for the Born Free Foundation.

Personal life[edit]

Adams celebrated his 90th birthday in 2010 with a party at the White Hart in his hometown of Whitchurch, Hampshire, where Sir George Young presented him with a painting made by a local artist. Adams wrote a poetic piece celebrating his home of the past 28 years.[12][13]

He currently lives with his wife, Elizabeth, in Whitchurch, within 10 miles (16 km) of his birthplace. Their daughters, to whom Adams originally related the tales that became Watership Down, are Juliet and Rosamond. He has six grandchildren: Lucy, Sarah, Miranda, Grace, Robert, and Maeve. His first great-grandchild, Florence, was born in 2015.



  1. ^ Alternatively, six authors have won the Carnegie Medal for their Guardian Prize–winning books. Professional librarians confer the Carnegie and select the winner from all British children's books. The Guardian newspaper's prize winner is selected by British children's writers, "peers" of the author who has not yet won it, for one children's (age 7+) or young-adult fiction book. Details regarding author and publisher nationality have varied.


  1. ^ a b c "Structo talks to Richard Adams". Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Michael D Sharp, Popular Contemporary Writers, Marshall Cavendish Corporation 2006 ISBN 0-7614-7601-6(p.26)
  3. ^ "Richard George Adams", Trevor Royle, Brief Biographies, Contemporary Novelists vol. 1. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  4. ^ "ADAMS, Richard George", Who's Who 2008, A & C Black, 2008; (online edition), Oxford University Press, December 2007. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  5. ^ "Richard Adams: Forever animated by the life of animals". The Independent. London. 16 May 2010. 
  6. ^ (Carnegie Winner 1972). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Guardian children's fiction prize relaunched: Entry details and list of past winners". 12 March 2001. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  8. ^ "Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2010. 
  9. ^ "Department of English | Graduate Programs – MFA in Fiction & Poetry". Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  10. ^ Wiltshire Society | Water under the bridge (accessed 2 April 2010) March 2010
  11. ^ "Whitchurch Arts Award for inspiration given to Richard Adams (accessed April 2010)". 9 May 1920. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  12. ^ "Whitchurch Arts, Celebration of Richard Adams' 90th Birthday". Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  13. ^ "Basingstoke Gazette, 20 May 2010, Party time for Richard as he celebrates 90th". 20 May 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 

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