Sykes, Christopher, 1907-1986

Alternative names
Birth 1907-11-17
Death 1986-12-08
German, French, English

Biographical notes:

Christopher Hugh Sykes was born at Sledmere near Malton, England, on Nov. 17, 1907, the second son of Mark and Edith Violet (Gorst) Sykes. His father, Sir Mark Sykes, was elected a conservative member of Parliament in 1912 and later served as an adviser to Lloyd George on Middle Eastern affairs. The father's Orientalist interests helped nurture the lifelong interest of the son in the Middle East. Christopher Sykes was educated at Downside School, the Sorbonne, and Christ Church, Oxford. During 1928-1929 Sykes was an honorary attaché at the British Embassy in Berlin, Germany, followed by a posting to the legation at Tehran, Iran, in 1930-31. He embarked in 1933 on a two years' journey through Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan with his friend Robert Byron, who recorded their experiences in the now classic travel memoir, 'The road to Oxiana'. On Oct. 26, 1936 he married Camilla Georgiane Russell, with whom he had a son, Mark Richard. His service in the British Army during World War II included assignment to Middle East Headquarters in Cairo during 1940-41. From 1941 until 1943 Sykes' military career was interrupted by his appointment as second secretary to the British Embassy in Tehran. During 1946 he reported on the Persian Azerbaijan Campaign for the 'Daily mail' of London. In 1948 he joined the British Broadcasting Corporation as deputy controller of the Third Programme and for the next twenty years worked in the Features and Talks departments of the BBC. Sykes's most memorable career, however, is not as diplomat or broadcast journalist but as biographer. His first venture into biography was 'Wassmuss, the German Lawrence' (1936). This was followed by 'Four studies in loyalty' (1946), 'Two studies in virtue' (1953), 'Orde Wingate' (1959), 'Troubled loyalty', a biography of Adam von Trott (1968), 'Nancy: the life of Lady Astor' (1972), and, most notably, 'Evelyn Waugh' (1975). He was also the author of several works of fiction, including 'Answer to question 33' (1948), 'A song of a shirt' (1953), and 'Dates and parties' (1955). Christopher Sykes died at Sledmere, his childhood home, on Dec. 8, 1986

From the description of The Christopher Sykes papers, 1945-1981. (Georgetown University). WorldCat record id: 243856664

Christopher Sykes (1907-1986) was a British author whose writings range from fiction to non-fiction (including biographies of Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Astor). At the beginning of his career Sykes worked for the Foreign Office at British embassies in Berlin, Germany and in Tehran, Persia. Following his service in the British military during World War II Sykes joined the British Broadcasting Corporation were he worked for roughly twenty years (first with the Third Programme and then with the features department).

From the description of Christopher Sykes papers, 1909-1976. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702153034

Christopher Sykes was born on November 17, 1907 in Yorkshire, England to Mark Sykes and Edith Violet Gorst Sykes. He was educated at Downside School, Sorbonne, University of Paris (1926), and Christ Church, Oxford University (1926-1928), but left his post-secondary studies without obtaining a degree. Sykes's literary circle included Robert Byron, Evelyn Waugh, and John Betjeman, all of whom attended Oxford University during roughly the same period.

Upon leaving his studies Sykes worked for the Foreign Office as an honorary attaché at the British embassy in Berlin, Germany (1928-1929) and as a private secretary to Sir Robert Clive in Tehran, Persia (1930-1931). After a year of studies at the School of Oriental Studies in London (1933) and two years of travels through Persia and Afghanistan, Sykes returned to Tehran as secretary for the British Embassy from 1941 to 1943 and to cover the Persian-Azerbaijan Campaign for The Daily Mail in 1946.

Sykes wrote about his travels in Stranger Wonders: Tales of Travel (1937) and Innocence and Design (1935) (which he co-authored with his travel companion Robert Byron under the pseudonym Richard Waughburton). At this time, Sykes also focused on his own writing completing Wassmuss: The German Lawrence (1936) and corresponding for The Spectator and The Observer (1936-1939).

During World War II, Sykes served in the military, first with the Green Howards (1939-1941), for which he was stationed in Cairo at the Middle East Headquarters, and then for the Special Operations Executive (1943) and the Special Air Service (1943-1945). Sykes continued to write during the War and in 1944 published High Minded Murder .

Following World War II, Sykes wrote a collection of essays, Four Studies in Loyalty (1946), and served as the literary editor for the New English Review before joining the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1948. Sykes worked for the Third Programme (1948) and then for the features department (1949-1968).

While at the BBC Sykes continued to write and his publications range from fiction, such as Answer to Question 33 (1948), Character and Situation (1949), A Song of a Shirt (1953), and Dates and Parties (1955), to non-fiction, such as Two Studies in Virtue (1953), Crossroads to Israel (1965) and Troubled Loyalty (1968). Sykes also wrote a number of biographies which include Orde Wingate (1959), Nancy: The Life of Lady Astor (1972), and Evelyn Waugh: A Biography (1975).

In 1936 Sykes married Camilla Russell (daughter of Thomas Wentworth Russell and Evelyn Dorothea Temple) with whom he had one son, Mark Sykes, in 1937. Sykes died on December 8, 1986.

From the guide to the Christopher Sykes Papers, 1909-1976, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • British literature--20th century
  • Biographers--England--Correspondence
  • Biographers--Great Britain--Correspondence
  • Diplomatic and consular service, British
  • Travel writers
  • Authors, English--20th century--Correspondence
  • Biographers--Great Britain
  • Radio and the arts--GreatBritain
  • Broadcasting--GreatBritain
  • Radio authorship
  • Travel writing
  • Biographers
  • Authors, British--20th century--Archives
  • Radio scripts
  • Radio and the arts
  • Broadcasting
  • Travel writers--Great Britain


not available for this record


  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)