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Tom Holland (author)

Thomas "Tom" Holland (born 1968) is an English writer and popular historian, who has published several works on classical and medieval history. As well as his writing, he has worked with the BBC to create two TV documentaries, also focusing on history.

Tom Holland
Wiltshire, England
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge, Queens' College, Cambridge
GenreLiterary fiction, Nonfiction, History
Notable worksPersian Fire
In the Shadow of the Sword
RelativesJames Holland



Early lifeEdit

Holland was born in Oxfordshire and brought up in the village of Broadchalke near Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. He was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge,[1] where he obtained a double First in English and Latin.[2].


In 2004, he was awarded the Hessell-Tiltman Prize, awarded to the best work of non-fiction of historical content, for his book Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic.[3]

In 2005, James Buchan reviewed Persian Fire positively for The Guardian newspaper,[4] while Paul Cartledge, a professor of Greek history at Cambridge University recommended it for The Independent thus: "If Persian Fire does not win the Samuel Johnson Prize, there is no justice in this world."[5] Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, historian Dominic Sandbrook reported it as "riveting" and praised the "enormous strengths" of the author.[6]

In February 2011, he presented and wrote Dinosaurs, Myths and Monsters, a BBC Four television programme exploring the influence of fossils on mythology.[7]

In August 2012, he produced a documentary for Channel 4 television entitled Islam: The Untold Story,[8] which provoked what Holland described as "a firestorm of death threats" against him.[9] Contributors included Professor Patricia Crone. The programme generated more than 1,000 complaints received by Ofcom and Channel 4.[10][11] A planned screening of Islam: The Untold Story before an audience of historians was cancelled, due to security concerns raised from threats received by Holland as a result of the documentary. Iranian State media called it an insult to Islam and the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) accused Holland of making “baseless assumptions” and engaging in “selective scholarship”.[12][13] His book on Islam In the Shadow of the Sword was criticized by Glen Bowersock of the Guardian of being written in "a swashbuckling style that aims more to unsettle his readers than to instruct them," and devoid of quality.[14]

In 2016, Holland was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.[15]



In August 2014, Holland was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.[16]


In March 2015, Holland published a piece entitled "We must not deny the religious roots of Islamic State" in the New Statesman. It argued that the jihadis of ISIS call themselves Islamic and people like Mehdi Hasan ought not to deny it, as he had in the previous week's issue. Holland wrote that "It is not merely coincidence that ISIS currently boasts a caliph, imposes quranically mandated taxes, topples idols, chops the hands off thieves, stones adulterers, executes homosexuals and carries a flag that bears the Muslim declaration of faith."[17]

In May 2015, Holland gave the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture at the Hay Festival, in which he addressed the subject of De-Radicalising Muhammad.[18] In an interview he gave to the literary website Quadrapheme the following month he explained that he wanted the lecture to promote discussion of the way Muhammad's life is interpreted, arguing that his "mythos lies at the core of what is pernicious in the goings-on of Islamic State and other radicals."[19] In the same interview he provided an insight into his own views, asserting that "Liberalism is essentially Christianity-lite, and you can include atheism and secularism in that bracket too—these are basically Christian heresies. The ethics involved are really New Testament ones," and adding later, when asked about resistance to his views on Islam, that "when I write about Islam my anxiety, and the reason I always pull my punches, isn’t that I’m afraid I’ll be killed, it’s that I’m afraid to be drummed out of the liberal club."[20]

Personal lifeEdit

Holland lives in London with his wife and two daughters. He is a keen cricket fan and member of the Authors XI cricket team.[21] He has written about receiving batting training from England captain Alastair Cook, and once hit a six.[22]



  • The Vampyre: Being the True Pilgrimage of George Gordon, Sixth Lord Byron (1995), ISBN 0-316-91227-1 (published in the US as Lord of the Dead)
  • Supping with Panthers (1996), ISBN 0-316-87622-4 (published in the US as Slave of My Thirst)


Short fictionEdit


  • The Importance of Being Frank (first professional performance 1991, text published 1997), ISBN 0-9530587-1-9




  1. ^ 'HOLLAND, Thomas (born 5 January 1968)' in Who's Who 2013
  2. ^ Georges T. Dodds (June 1999). "A Conversation With Tom Holland". The SF Site. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Hessell-Tiltman Prize". English PEN. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West", 10 Sep 2005
  5. ^ "Persian Fire: The first world empire and the battle for the west, by Tom Holland ", 2 Sep 2005
  6. ^ "A civilising influence - Dominic Sandbrook reviews Persian Fire by Tom Holland.", 18 Sep 2015
  7. ^ "Dinosaurs, Myths and Monsters". BBC. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Islam – The Untold Story". Channel 4. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  9. ^ Holland, Tom (8 January 2015). "Viewpoint: The roots of the battle for free speech". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  10. ^ Lisa O'Carroll (3 September 2012). "Channel 4 documentary Islam: The Untold Story receives 1,200 complaints". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  11. ^ Christopher Howse (29 August 2012). "Islam: the Untold Story, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  12. ^ John Hall (11 September 2012). "Channel 4 cancels controversial screening of Islam: The Untold Story documentary after presenter Tom Holland is threatened". The Independent. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  13. ^ "Channel 4 cancels screening of Islam film over security fears". The Week. 12 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  14. ^ "In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland – review". The Guardian. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  15. ^ "Tom Holland". The Royal Society of Literature. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  17. ^ "Tom Holland: We must not deny the religious roots of Islamic State", 17 Mar 2015
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Mission Impossible? An Interview with Tom Holland | Quadrapheme". Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  20. ^ "Mission Impossible? An Interview with Tom Holland | Quadrapheme". Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  21. ^ Marcus Berkmann (25 Jul 2013), The pen is mightier than the cricket bat: THE AUTHORS XI: A SEASON OF ENGLISH CRICKET FROM HACKNEY TO HAMBLEDON BY THE AUTHORS CRICKET CLUB, MailOnline, retrieved 21 Jan 2015
  22. ^ Holland, Tom (2013-11-15). "FT Masterclass: Batting with Alastair Cook". Retrieved 2014-08-26.

External linksEdit