Alison Light is a full-time writer. She writes and broadcasts chiefly on issues to do with British cultural life, literature and history.

She was born in Portsmouth, UK and took a degree in English at Churchill College, Cambridge University. She then worked as a school teacher, as a studio manager at the BBC, and taught part-time in adult education. After gaining a doctorate from Sussex University she lectured in English at Brighton Polytechnic and at Royal Holloway College.

As the widow of the historian, Raphael Samuel, she spent several years helping to establish the Raphael Samuel History Centre and Archive: both are now flourishing in London.

Meanwhile she has written for the press, lectured part-time in English at University College London and as Professor of Modern English Literature and Culture at Newcastle University.  She has also held Honorary and Visiting Professorships, most recently at Sheffield Hallam University and Newcastle. She is currently Honorary Professor in the Department of English, University College, London; a (Non-Stipendiary) Research Fellow attached to The Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities, and Senior Associate of Pembroke College, Oxford.

Her last book, Common People (2014), was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize in non-fiction.





Alison Light


Common People US book coverCommon People has been published in the US

Common People: In Pursuit of My Ancestors has been published in the US. Penelope Lively in the New York Times called it "The most powerful family history I have ever read."
And the Wall Street Journal hailed it as a "compelling portrait of a Britain in flux after the Industrial Revolution...full of moments where the public and the personal intersect to quietly devastating effect."
The Chicago paperback edition of Common People will be available in autumn 2016.

Common People is now available in paperback

From Penguin Press and as a downloadable audiobook, unabridged.
 Common People: the History of an English Family

“Few historians can match Light’s ability to see a subject anew and explore it with imagination and humanity.
Times Higher Education magazine

Light gives our thoughts space to breathe alongside her own.
Intelligent Life Magazine, Economist

Her instincts continue to be those of the dissenter.
London Review of Books