Peter Preston

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Person.png Peter Preston   History CommonsRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(Journalist, Editor, Author, propagandist?)
Peter Preston.jpg
BornPeter John Preston
Leicestershire, England
Died2018-01-06 (Age 79)
Alma materSt John's College (Oxford)
Children • 4
• including
• Ben Preston
SpouseJean Burrell
Editor of the The Guardian for twenty years.

Peter John Preston was a British journalist and author. He was editor of the The Guardian for twenty years, from 1975 to 1995.

Early life

Peter Preston was born in Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, the son of John Preston, a greengrocery business manager, and his wife, Kathlyn Preston (née Chell).[1] He grew up in the village of Quorn, two miles south of Loughborough.

His father died from polio when he was child, and he subsequently caught the disease; he spent 18 months in and out of hospital, including time in an iron lung. The disease caused permanent damage to his body.[2] He was educated at Loughborough Grammar School and St John's College (Oxford), where he edited the student paper Cherwell.[3]


He started his career at the Liverpool Daily Post in 1959, and joined The Guardian (then the Manchester Guardian) in 1963.[4] He rose to become editor in 1975 and remained so for over twenty years, retiring in 1995. He reported on Conservative Party MPs, including the perjurious Jonathan Aitken and the cash-for-questions affair involving Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith. In both instances, a source was Harrod's and Paris Ritz owner Mohamed Al-Fayed. Preston was also editor when The Guardian was forced to hand over leaked government documents which were then traced to a Foreign Office copier, leading to Sarah Tisdall, who was subsequently imprisoned under the Official Secrets Act 1911.

He continued as a columnist for the rest of his life. He contributed a weekly column to The Observer, "Peter Preston on press and broadcasting", devoted mainly to news about newspapers, their readers and (generally) diminishing circulations in the newspaper's "business and media" section.[5] He was chairman of the preparatory committee of the European Press Prize.[6] He was a member of the Scott Trust Ltd (owner of The Guardian and Observer) from 1979 to 2003, Chairman of the International Press Institute from 1995 to 1997, and Chairman of the Association of British Press Editors.[7] Preston wrote two novels, Bess and 51st State.

Personal life and honours

In 1962, Preston married Jean Burrell, and they had four children. His son, Ben Preston, is a former deputy editor of The Times[8] and Radio Times, and is executive editor of The Sunday Times. Preston died on 6 January 2018 after suffering from melanoma.[9]

He received honorary degrees from the City University, London and the universities of Leicester, Loughborough, Essex and Roehampton.[10]


  • Bess (Viking, 1999) ISBN 0-670-88765-X
  • 51st State (Viking, 1998) ISBN 0-670-88107-4

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