|Alma mater||Edinburgh University|
She was educated at Edinburgh University where she studied Chinese to post-graduate level. As Secretary of the entirely non-subversive China-Scottish Association, based at her University, Hilton was placed on MI5's "Christmas Tree" list, which prevented her from employment with the BBC in 1976. By the time the issue had been resolved, Hilton had become a feature writer for the Daily Express.
Having been the Latin American affairs editor at the Sunday Times, she chose not to move to Wapping with her paper and joined The Independent in 1986 and filled the same role there. Hilton joined The Guardian in 1997, where she has contributed a regular column.
Hilton presented The World Tonight 1995–98 on BBC Radio 4 and from 1999 has presented Nightwaves on BBC Radio 3. Concurrently from March 2005 to July 2007 she was editor and then editor-in-chief of the openDemocracy.net website and is now the editor of Chinadialogue.
Isabel Hilton is married to Neal Ascherson, with whom she has a son and daughter.
On BBC Radio 4's "Britain and China" programme, discussing the operation of Chinese nuclear power plant being supplied to the UK, Hilton defended China's position on maintenance, suggesting, "perhaps from Beijing they can shut down and calibrate a nuclear power plant, without actually having to be here."
- See Mark Hollingsworth and Richard Norton-Taylor Blacklist: The Inside Story of Political Vetting, London: Hoagarth Press, 1988, p.107-8. The relevant extract (Chapter 5) is online here. See also David Leigh and Paul Lashmar "The Blacklist in Room 105", The Observer, 18 August 1985, p.9
- Isabel Hilton "openDemocracy: a farewell salute", openDemocracy 17 July 2007. Retrieved on 13 April 2008.
- "No. 59090". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 2009. p. 25.