I was born in Sheffield in 1959; studied English Literature at Cambridge (1978-81); worked as an editor, journalist, translator and anti-nuclear activist before publishing my first book, A Paper House. The Ending of Yugoslavia (1992).

I spent most of the 1990s in Croatia as a journalist (freelancing mostly for The Guardian, The New Statesman, and Tribune); a media researcher (Forging War. The Media in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1994 and 1999); a policy analyst for the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the former Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR, with c. 44,000 members); a researcher for the Aspen Institute's International Commission on the Balkans, in Berlin; the first political officer for the UN's smallest peacekeeping operation in the field (UNMOP, with c. 30 members), based in Dubrovnik; and then the spokesman and head of media affairs for the mission in Croatia of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), based in Zagreb. 

Subsequently I worked as the first secretary of the Media Task Force at the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe (1999-2000), was the Balkans Program Director for the International Crisis Group (2000-2001), and then a self-employed media development consultant. In 2008, I joined the Media Program (now the Program on Independent Journalism) of the Open Society Foundations. During this time I published the 2nd edition of Forging War; prepared and published Forging Peace, with Monroe Price; published The White War. Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919 (winner of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for 2009); and then Birth Certificate. The Story of Danilo Kis (shortlisted for the National Book Critics' Circle award in biography for 2013, and winner of the Jan Michalski Prize for 2015 and the Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies for 2016).

In 2015, I joined the History School as a Reader in Modern History.

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