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He was the son of Max Stothard, an electrical engineer who worked at the Marconi Research Centre, Great Baddow. He grew up on the nearby Rothmans Estate. He was educated at Brentwood School, Essex (1962–68) and Trinity College, Oxford, where he became editor of Oxford University student newspaper Cherwell, after which he joined the BBC and wrote for the New Statesman, New Society and Plays and Players. He joined The Sunday Times in 1978 and The Times in 1981 where he was chief leader writer, deputy editor and US editor, based in Washington. He was knighted for services to the newspaper industry in 2003. He published Thirty Days: An Inside Account of Tony Blair at War (HarperCollins, 2010, ISBN 978-0-06-058262-6) in 2004 which was based on observations inside Downing Street during the Iraq War.
During Stothard's editorship, The Times reached a circulation of more than 900,000 - the highest in its history. This was, in part, the result of the so-called 'price war' which started in 1993 when The Times reduced its cover price and started intense circulation battles against The Daily Telegraph and The Independent. Under the ownership of News International, led by Rupert Murdoch, The Times had identified the Telegraph rather than The Guardian as its main rival while The Independent was at first a serious challenger to The Times. One enduring result of the price war was a significant narrowing of the gap between The Times and Daily Telegraph and a widening of the gap with The Independent.
In 1999 he became involved in a controversial legal dispute over political funding with the Conservative Party Treasurer, Michael Ashcroft. Lord Ashcroft sued but subsequently withdrew his suit after a statement agreed by both parties.
In 2000 he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and was away from The Times for ten months for successful treatment.
Since becoming editor of The Times Literary Supplement he has written mainly on Greek and Roman literature. In 2013 he was awarded the President’s Medal of the British Academy for services to the humanities. 
In 2010 his first book of memoir On the Spartacus Road (HarperPress, 2011, 978-0-00-734084) combined an account of the Spartacus uprising with elements of autobiography. His second, Alexandria, The Last Nights of Cleopatra (Granta, 2012, 978-1-84708-703-5), extended the same form, including accounts of newspaper life alongside the story of his engagement with Greece, Rome and Egypt. Alexandria won the 2013 Criticos Prize for literature on themes from ancient or modern Greece.
Stothard appears as a character briefly in the first scene of a one-level Tomb Raider expansion videogame made by Core Design in association with The Times. The expansion is called Times Exclusive Level and was released in 2000.
|Date||Review article||Work(s) reviewed|
|2011||Stothard, Peter (September 2011). "The old BC/AD, BCE/CE : errors abound in Robert Hughes' history of Rome". Australian Book Review 334: 8–9.||Hughes, Robert (2011). Rome. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 9780297844648.|
|Deputy Editor of The Times|
|Editor of The Times|