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The Ethics of Biography

Tom Bower, Michael Freedland, Anne Sebba

10/03/2005 10:15 am
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Biography is one of the great literary growth areas, reaching a huge number of readers. But how do authors deal with the scandals, rivalries, secrets and lies they may come across in the course of their work? Is it a question of publish and be damned? Or should the subject’s privacy always be respected?

Tom Bower is the country’s bestselling biographer of contemporary public figures, renowned for his no-holds-barred approach. Michael Freedland has published several authorised biographies alongside many others, often on showbiz subjects, while Anne Sebba’s subjects are usually literary or historical personalities. Together with Tom Sutcliffe they discussed the experience of writing in this most fascinating of genres.

Tom Bower


Tom Bower is an acclaimed investigative journalist and best-selling biographer, author of 24 books including Nazi Gold, and the lives of Robert Maxwell, Richard Branson, Tony Blair, Prince Charles and Jeremy Corbyn.

Michael Goldfarb

Michael Goldfarb covers conflicts for The New York Times and The Guardian, among other publications. He is author of Emancipation: How Liberating Europe\'s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance.

Anne Sebba


Anne Sebba: award winning biographer, historian and author of eleven books. Her latest book is Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy published in the UK and US in 2021. In 2016 Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940’s was the winner of the 2016 Franco-British Society book prize. Previously Anne wrote That Woman, a biography of Wallis Simpson and the scandal of the 1936 abdication crisis based on her discovery of a secret cache of letters. A former Reuters Foreign Correspondent, Anne is a broadcaster and regularly appears on television talking about her books. She is a former chair of Britain's 10,000 strong Society of Authors and lecturer who gives talks to a variety of audiences in the US and UK as well as on cruises and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research.

Tom Sutcliffe