Paxman, Jeremy 1950- (Jeremy Dickson Paxman)

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Paxman, Jeremy 1950- (Jeremy Dickson Paxman)


Born May 11, 1950, in Leeds, England; son of Arthur Keith (in industry) and Joan McKay Paxman; married Elizabeth Clough (a television producer); children: three. Education: Attended Malvern College; St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, B.A. (with honors), 1972, M.A., 1975. Hobbies and other interests: Fly fishing, sleep, good conversation.


Home—London, England. Agent—Anthony Goff, David Higham Associates, 5-8 Lower John St., Golden Sq., London W1D 6PS, England.


Writer, journalist, television news anchor, radio broadcaster, and documentary filmmaker. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), London, England, correspondent in Northern Ireland, 1974-77, BBC Tonight, reporter, 1977-79, Panorama, filmmaker and reporter, 1979-84, Breakfast Time, studio anchor and reporter, 1986-89, Newsnight, studio anchor and reporter, 1989—, Did You See? host, 1991-93, You Decide—With Paxman, host, 1995-96. Also host of University Challenge, 1994—, and Start the Week, BBC Radio Four, 1998-2002.


Current Affairs Award, Royal Television Society, 1984; awards for "best contribution to television," Voice of the Viewer and Listener, 1993 and 1997; Richard Dimbleby Award, British Academy of Film and Television Actors, 1996 and 2000; "Interview of the Year" Award, Royal Television Society, 1997 and 1998; award for best television performer in a non-acting role, Broadcasting Press Guild, 1997; Media Personality of the Year Award, Variety Club, 1999. Recipient of honorary degrees from the University of Leeds and the University of Bradford, and honorary fellowships from St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, and St. Edmund Hall, Oxford.


(With Robert Harris) A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Gas and Germ Warfare (nonfiction), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1982, published as A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret History of Chemical and Biological Warfare, Random House Trade Paperbacks (New York, NY), 2002.

Through the Volcanoes: A Central American Journey, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1985.

Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? Penguin (New York, NY), 1991.

(Selector and author of introduction) Fish, Fishing, and the Meaning of Life, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1994.

The English: A Portrait of a People, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1998, Overlook Press (Woodstock, VT), 2000.

The Political Animal: An Anatomy, Michael Joseph (London, England), 2002.

On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry into Some Strangely Related Families, PublicAffairs (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor of articles to magazines and newspapers, including New Statesman, Listener, and Los Angeles Times.

Appeared, often as himself, in numerous British television programs, including The Vicar of Dibley, Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years, and My Dad's the Prime Minister.


Jeremy Paxman is a prominent television journalist in Great Britain who has worked through the ranks as a roving reporter, international correspondent, and news anchor for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Since 1989 Paxman has been the anchor of Newsnight, the BBC's 11:00 evening newscast. Newsnight differs from American newscasts in that it includes lengthy interview segments, and it is as an uncompromising interviewer that Paxman has gained his fame. Laconic and skeptical—if highly principled—Paxman relishes every opportunity to bombard national figures with unscripted questions, and his persistence and persona have made him something of a cult hero in the United Kingdom. His probing, sometimes confrontational, even cynical interviewing style has earned him both plaudits and criticism. With Paxman, "what you see is what you get. He is charming, amusing, a good raconteur and suffused by the world-weariness with which he views politicians in general and the election preamble in particular," commented Mary Riddell in a New Statesman profile. For his part, Paxman told Riddell that it is "very, very difficult to remain calm when you're listening to someone talk complete bollocks. There are so many of them now. It's not just politicians: it's captains of industry, union leaders, people speaking for one vested interest or another. You just owe it to the electorate, the viewers, and the people who pay the license fees to try to get through that."

Paxman began his journalistic career as a reporter covering Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and later he switched to national and international investigative reporting. His experience in this vein informs the books he writes as well. A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Gas and Germ Warfare recounts the history of chemical and biological warfare and examines the effectiveness of international agreements restricting the use of poison gases and biological weapons. Paxman and coauthor Robert Harris conclude that the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibiting first use of such weapons had little effect during World War II—the British and the Germans were restrained from using gas by military considerations, not by the treaty.

Reviewer Julian Lewis observed in the Times Literary Supplement that in A Higher Form of Killing, "Harris and Paxman inevitably tend to stray into the realms of speculation," and he questioned parts of their interpretation. But Lewis praised "the authors' achievement in piecing together generally inaccessible facts about a subject of deadly significance." Washington Post Book World writer George Bunn suggested that Paxman and Harris overstate the ineffectiveness of the Geneva Protocol, but he found the book "the best, up-to-date account of gas and germ warfare available for the lay reader." Bunn noted that the book contains "an amazing account of British-United States collaboration, urged on by [British prime minister Winston] Churchill, to produce anthrax bombs to be used if necessary on German cities."

A bestseller in England, Paxman's The English: A Portrait of a People offers a humorous but heartfelt assessment of English national identity. In observations that Library Journal contributor Linda M. Kaufmann dubbed "stylishly written and provocative," Paxman contends that the resurgent national spirit of the Scots, Welsh, and Irish has put pressure on the English to define exactly who they are and how they differ not only from their fellow United Kingdom denizens, but also from Europeans in general. "Opening the door to a large subject, Paxman searches for the essence of Englishness in history, religion, geography, behavior, speech and—well, just about anything that throws light on his subject," claimed a Kirkus Reviews critic. The reviewer added that Paxman's "informative, fact-studded book will enlighten and entertain everyone who seeks to learn of yesterday's English and today's ‘Cool Britannia.’" A Publishers Weekly reviewer found The English to be "a humorous, ironic, nostalgic, skeptical, dilettantish, mildly eccentric, self-deprecating and proud account (like its subject)." The critic concluded: "This odd collection of theoretical musings, historical tidbits and quirky observations should serve as both a corrective and a comfort for Anglophiles—in Britain and elsewhere."

Other of Paxman's books focus on the governance of Great Britain, and in particular on the British monarchy and the concept of royalty. In Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? Paxman seeks to uncover the true source of power and influence in the United Kingdom. His larger conclusion is that the prime minister (Margaret Thatcher, at the time of the book's publication) is the one who runs the country. But his analysis uncovered a deeper core of authority firmly entrenched in the English political and social culture, one that has been in place and operating for much of British history. Their basic identity: "the ruling class of the public schools and the more weatherbeaten universities, plus a peppering of classless entrepreneurs who have, in uneasy alliance, run Britain for longer than anyone can remember," commented a reviewer in the Economist. According to the author, the elite from some of Britain's older educational institutions, such as Eton College, hold a powerful sway over British politics. Professional members of very old clubs and organizations wield considerable influence in their own fields and overall.

This British Establishment has its own culture, its own codes of conduct, its own religion and form of education, even its own particular vocal accent—and its own rules for dealing with itself and with the outside world. "There is nothing more agreeable in life than to make peace with the Establishment—and nothing more corrupting," commented the Economist reviewer.

Paxman takes an incisive and lighthearted look at the most venerable and symbolic source of British authority in On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry into Some Strangely Related Families. "Paxman's fascinating and amusing book is an inquiry into the continuing potency of an anachronism, and also into the largely voluntary thralldom it continues to exert on its ‘subjects,’" observed Christopher Hitchens, writing in the New York Times Book Review. He looks at the role of the various members of the monarchy in Britain and explores the deep fascination, sometimes obsession, that both subjects and observers in other countries have with royalty. In addition, the author describes encounters with members of the British royal family: he was invited to Buckingham Palace for tea by Diana, Princess of Wales; he found his steely journalist's composure shaken at the prospect of meeting the Queen of England; and he relates how a somewhat forlorn Prince Charles seems resigned to the monarchy's role as entertainment, rather than genuine governance. Paxman centers his examination on the British royal family but considers monarchies from other countries as well. He notes, for example, that Albania established its own monarchy in 1923, and advertised for a typical English country gentleman to accept the throne.

An Internet Bookwatch reviewer called the book a "wonderfully lively expose," while a Kirkus Reviews writer deemed it "a witty, edifying treatise." For Library Journal contributor Elizabeth Mellett, the volume is a "thoroughly enjoyable book about the British monarchy." Paxman "proves a vastly knowledgeable and tartly entertaining guide to a magical realm that is stranger than fiction," remarked a Publishers Weekly critic. Paxman concludes, according to Maria Puente in USA Today, that monarchies "work when the people they reign over connect them to history, emotion, imagination, and mythology."

Paxman once told CA: "My motivations for writing are gut instinct, the need to ask questions, and the pleasure of self-expression."



Biography, spring, 2007, Michael Coren and Stacy Shif, review of On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry into Some Strangely Related Families, p. 307; summer, 2007, Christopher Hitchens, "Royalty," review of On Royalty, p. 458.

Contemporary Review, summer, 2007, James Munson, "The Monarchy and Mr. Paxman," review of On Royalty, p. 238.

Daily Variety, May 15, 2007, Steve Clarke, "Paxman Set for Talk," p. 6; June 19, 2007, Steve Clarke, "Stirring Up the News: BBC America Taps U.K. Anchor for Show," p. 6.

Economist, October 13, 1990, review of Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? p. 94.

Europe Intelligence Wire, February 1, 2005, "Paxman Fury at Beeb Cuts."

Guardian (Manchester, England), June 25, 2000, "Paxman Victor in Newsnight Battle"; January 31, 2005, Matt Wells, "Paxman Answers the Questions," interview with Jeremy Paxman.

Hollywood Reporter, May 15, 2007, "Paxman Cometh," profile of Jeremy Paxman, p. 10.

International Affairs, July, 2000, Robin Cohen, "The Incredible Vagueness of Being British/English," p. 575.

Internet Bookwatch, August, 2007, review of On Royalty.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2000, review of The English: A Portrait of a People, p. 776; March 15, 2007, review of On Royalty.

Library Journal, July, 2000, Linda M. Kaufmann, review of The English, p. 123; March 15, 2007, Elizabeth Mellett, review of On Royalty, p. 82.

Marketing Week, July 12, 2007, "That Sneer or the Absence of Ties, Which Will Become Paxo's Legacy?" profile of Jeremy Paxman, p. 74.

Mental Health Practice, November, 2005, "Educate the Media, Paxman Tells Awards Ceremony," p. 4.

New Statesman, April 2, 1982, Andy Thomas, review of A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Gas and Germ Warfare, p. 23; April 4, 1997, Mary Riddell, interview with Jeremy Paxman, p. 16; July 9, 2001, Colin Tudge, "Culturally Challenged Science," profile of Jeremy Paxman, p. 44; November 4, 2002, review of The Political Animal: An Anatomy, p. 46; November 25, 2002, review of The Political Animal, p. 55.

New Statesman & Society, October 5, 1990, Anthony Wright, review of Friends in High Places, p. 36.

New York Times Book Review, July 8, 2007, Christopher Hitchens, "God Save the Queen," review of On Royalty.

Political Studies, December, 1992, Frank H. Longstreth, review of Friends in High Places, p. 770.

Publishers Weekly, March 4, 1983, review of A Higher Form of Killing, p. 98; June 5, 2000, review of The English, p. 85; March 12, 2007, review of On Royalty, p. 49.

Spectator, November 14, 1998, David Gilmour, review of The English, p. 48.

Times Educational Supplement, October 26, 1990, Peter Hennessy, review of Friends in High Places, p. 1; April 10, 1992, review of Friends in High Places, p. 27.

Times Literary Supplement, April, 1982, Julian Lewis, review of A Higher Form of Killing; September 21, 1990, John Vincent, review of Friends in High Places, p. 994; November 27, 1998, Peter Clarke, review of The English, p. 9.

USA Today, June 26, 2007, Maria Puente, "Cheeky History Lesson: It's Not Always Good to Be King," review of On Royalty, p. 6.

Variety, June 25, 2007, Steve Clarke, "BBC Banks on Brash Brit as Next U.S. Hit," profile of Jeremy Paxman, p. 21.

Washington Post Book World, July 11, 1982, George Bunn, review of A Higher Form of Killing.


British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Web site, (October 10, 2006), biography of Jeremy Paxman.

Fluxeuropa, (May 27, 2000), review of The English.

Internet Movie Database, (December 5, 2007), filmography of Jeremy Paxman.