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Rory Stewart
British politician, academic, author, diplomat and documentary maker

Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro British politician, academic, author, diplomat and documentary maker
A.K.A. Roderick James Nugent Stewart
Is Politician Author Diplomat Writer
From United Kingdom
Field Literature Politics
Gender male
Birth 3 January 1973, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China
Age 49 years
Politics Conservative Party
Rory Stewart
The details (from wikipedia)


Roderick James Nugent 'Rory' Stewart, OBE FRSL (born 3 January 1973) is a British diplomat, politician, and author. A member of the Conservative Party, he is currently serving as a Minister of State at the Department for International Development. He is a former Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. Since May 2010, he has been the Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border, in the county of Cumbria, North West England.

Stewart was a senior coalition official in Iraq in 2003–04. He is known for his book about this experience, The Prince of the Marshes (also published under the title Occupational Hazards), and for his 2002 walk across Afghanistan (one part of a larger walk across Asia), which served as the basis for another book, The Places in Between, as well as his later cultural development work in Afghanistan as the Founder and Executive Chairman of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a British charity.

Early life

Stewart, whose family seat is Broich House near Crieff in Perthshire, Scotland, was born in Hong Kong, the child of the diplomat Brian Stewart, was brought up in Malaysia and Scotland and educated at the Dragon School and Eton College. During his gap year in 1991 he was commissioned in the Black Watch for nine months as second lieutenant (on probation). He then attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he read modern history and politics, philosophy and economics (PPE).

While a student at Oxford, Stewart was a private tutor to Prince William and Prince Harry during the summer. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Stirling and the American University of Paris. As a teenager, he was a member of the Labour Party.

Diplomatic service

After graduating, Stewart joined the Foreign Office. He served in the British Embassy in Indonesia from 1997 to 1999, working on issues related to East Timor independence, and as the British Representative to Montenegro in the wake of the Kosovo campaign.

After the coalition invasion of Iraq, he was appointed the Coalition Provisional Authority Deputy Governorate Co-Ordinator in Maysan and Deputy Governorate Co-ordinator/Senior Advisor in Dhi Qar, two provinces in southern Iraq. His responsibilities included holding elections, resolving tribal disputes, and implementing development projects. He faced growing unrest and an incipient civil war from his base in a Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) compound in Al Amarah, and in May 2004 was in command of his compound in Nasiriyah when it was besieged by Sadrist militia.

While Stewart initially supported the Iraq War, the International Coalition's inability to achieve a more humane, prosperous state led him in retrospect to believe the invasion had been a mistake.

Walking and travel

From 2000 to 2002 he travelled on foot through rural districts of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, a journey totalling around 6000 miles, during which time he stayed in five hundred different village houses. He also walked across West Papua in 1998, in addition to making a number of long walks through Cumbria and Britain. He later travelled into Libya a day after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi. He has also written about theory and practice of travel writings in prefaces to Thesiger's Arabian Sands, Doughty's Arabia Deserta and Byron's The Road to Oxiana.


In late 2004, Stewart became a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.

In July 2008, he was appointed Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights at Harvard University and Director of the John F. Kennedy School of Government Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. He has frequently been called on to provide advice on Afghanistan and Iraq to policy-makers, particularly in the US, UK and Canada. Having acceded to the position on 1 January 2009, he combined the role with his charitable work in Afghanistan and with service on a number of boards, including the International Development Research Centre of Canada.

Stewart was awarded the Royal Scottish Geographical Society's Livingstone medal in 2009 "in recognition of his work in Afghanistan and his travel writing, and for his distinguished contribution to geography".

Stewart left his position at Harvard in March 2010 (maintaining, however, an advisory position there), and stepped down as Executive Chairman of the Turquoise Mountain Trust in May 2010.

Charity work

In 2006, at the request of the Prince of Wales and Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, he established, as Executive chairman, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a human development NGO, in Afghanistan, and relocated to Kabul. The Foundation aims to revive and preserve traditional crafts through a series of urban regeneration projects and the establishment of an accredited vocational institute, in the historic neighbourhood of Murad Khane.


His first book, The Places in Between, was an account of his 32-day solo walk across Afghanistan in early 2002. It was a New York Times best-seller, was named one of the New York Times 10 notable books in 2006 and was hailed by the NYT as a "flat-out masterpiece". It won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, a Scottish Arts Council prize, the Spirit of Scotland award and the Premio de Literatura de Viaje Caminos del Cid. It was short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. The book was adapted into a radio play by Benjamin Yeoh and was broadcast in 2007 on BBC Radio 4.

Stewart's second book, The Prince of the Marshes, describes his experiences as a Deputy Governorate Co-ordinator in Iraq. It too was critically acclaimed, The New York Times saying "Stewart seems to be living one of the most remarkable lives on record." His books have been translated into French, Spanish, German, Danish, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Lithuanian and Bosnian. Stage versions, TV documentaries and film scripts have been optioned; the 2017 play Occupational Hazards by Stephen Brown, based on the book, was produced at the Hampstead Theatre in May 2017. Until 2008, when he took up his position at Harvard, Stewart resided in Kabul as Executive Chairman of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation.

Many of Stewart's articles (which have appeared in newspapers and magazines from the New York Times and the Guardian to the London and New York Review of Books), like his interviews on CNN, Al Jazeera, the BBC and Channel 4, have cautioned against over-ambitious foreign interventions, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. His 2008 cover article in Time magazine, where he debated against Presidential candidates Obama and McCain, arguing against a troop surge in Afghanistan has been shortlisted for an American Journalism Association Award.

Stewart's reflections on the circumstances under which outside military and political intervention in countries' internal affairs may or may not hope to achieve positive results are further distilled in a 2011 book, Can Intervention Work?, co-authored with Gerald Knaus and part of the Amnesty International Global Ethics Series.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009. He is a columnist for the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, contributing a fortnightly column.

Political career

Stewart attempted to be selected as the Conservative Party candidate for the Bracknell constituency in the 2010 General Election, but was unsuccessful.

He was also shortlisted as one of three male and three female candidates for the Penrith and the Border constituency open caucus on 25 October 2009. He won the open primary (a process in which any registered voter from the constituency could attend and vote) to become the parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives for the 2010 election. He was returned as the MP for the constituency on 6 May 2010.

On 25 July 2010, Stewart apologised to his constituents after blogging about the relative poverty of rural areas and need for more public services. He was quoted in the Scottish Sun as saying that "Some areas around here are pretty primitive, people holding up their trousers with bits of twine." A light-hearted Guardian article, "In praise of … binder twine", whilst acknowledging the "serious effort" Stewart had made "walking hundreds of miles" to get to know his constituency believed he had simply underestimated the importance of the "ubiquitous and indispensable" twine to the rural community.

Stewart attended the exclusive Bilderberg Conference in June 2011, along with leading world politicians and bankers including UK Conservative Chancellor George Osborne. Columnist Charlie Skelton commented in the Guardian that this made it likely that Stewart would receive a "forthcoming promotion", based on the history of other politicians invited to the exclusive Bilderberg group. Stewart won the election for Chairman of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on 14 May 2014 following a vote of all MPs. Within his constituency, Stewart's policy focus has been on broadband, mobile coverage, rural services and agriculture.

Stewart was a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee between 2010 and 2014, making a notable contribution to the committee's report on Afghanistan. He is chairman of the APPG for Mountain Rescue and the APPG for Local Democracy. He was also an officer of the APPG for Rural Services.

At the UK General Election in 2015, Stewart almost doubled his majority in Penrith and The Border from 11,241 to 19,894, the highest majority since the seat was first created.

Broadband and Rural Mobile Campaign

Stewart led the first backbench motion for expanding broadband and mobile coverage, securing what was then the largest number of cross-party endorsements for a backbench motion. In a report published in 2011, Stewart won support from the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in calling for mobile phone companies to be forced to provide coverage to 98% of the population, and in 2012 his campaign achieved its goal when regulator OFCOM announced its plans for the auction of fourth generation (4G) bandwidth for mobile phone services.

Stewart was successful in securing the Cumbrian broadband pilot in 2011, and in November 2013, broadband provider EE cited the support of Government and regulatory policy in announcing that over 2,000 residents and businesses in rural Cumbria were to have access to superfast home and office broadband for the first time. In February 2015 Stewart secured more funding in order to continue the broadband roll out in Cumbria.

Hands Across The Border

In July 2014, Stewart launched a project in support of the union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The campaign, named Hands Across The Border, aimed to construct a cairn built by members of the British public precisely on the Scotland-England border in Gretna in the run up to the Scottish independence referendum. Stewart said of the project: "We wanted to come up with a lasting marker of our union, something that future generations will look back at and remember, with deep gratitude, the moment we chose to stay together." The campaign received support from several notable public figures in the UK, including actress Joanna Lumley, explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, mountaineers Alan Hinkes and Doug Scott and historians Simon Schama and David Starkey.

Veterans in the justice system

In January 2014 Stewart was asked by Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Justice, to lead a Government review into the reasons why a number of British veterans become criminal offenders after returning to civilian life. The review looked at ways in which support and prevention for veterans in the justice system can be improved.

Following his election to Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, Stewart handed over the lead for the review to Stephen Phillips QC MP.

Defence Select Committee

In May 2014, Stewart was elected by MPs from all parties as Chairman of the Defence Select Committee. He was the youngest ever Chair of a select committee, as well as the first MP of the 2010 intake to be elected to chair a committee.

Stewart chaired committee reports arguing strongly for a more vigorous response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. The committee also argued that Britain's commitments to Iraq and Syria were "strikingly modest" and that more should be done. Under Stewart's chairmanship, the committee produced a report in favour of the proposals for a Services Complaint Ombudsman and also secured an amendment extending the powers of the Ombudsman.


Following the Conservative victory in the 2015 UK General Election, Stewart was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), with responsibilities including the natural environment, national parks, floods and water, resource and environmental management, rural affairs, lead responsibility for the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commission, and acting as the Secretary of State's deputy on the Environment Council.

In July 2015, in his capacity as Resource Minister, he announced a review into the regulatory and enforcement barriers to growth and innovation in the waste sector. Stewart as 'Floods Minister' joined the National Flood Resilience Review, formed in 2016 and chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin. Stewart initiated the Cumbria Floods Partnership in response to Storm Desmond, with a focus on long-term flood defence. UK House of Commons cross-party Environment Audit Committee criticised Floods Minister Stewart "that the extra £700m [newly allocated flood defence monies] was the result of a “political calculation” and that it might not be spent according to the strict value-for-money criteria currently used."

After Theresa May replaced David Cameron as Prime Minister, Stewart was promoted to Minister of State for International Development on 17 July 2016.

Personal life

Stewart lives at Dufton in Cumbria, and is a member of The Athenaeum Club. In 2012, he married an American NGO executive, Shoshana Clark, with whom he had his first child in November 2014.


In the 2004 Queen's Birthday Honours, Stewart was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).


  • On 16 and 23 January 2010, Stewart presented a two-part series on The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia on BBC2 in the UK.
  • In May 2012, Stewart wrote and presented Afghanistan: The Great Game – A Personal View by Rory Stewart, a documentary in two parts written and presented by Stewart that tells the story of foreign intervention by Britain, Russia and the United States in Afghanistan from the 19th century to the present day, which aired on BBC2.
  • On 30 March and 6 April 2014, Stewart presented a two-part BBC television documentary, Border Country: The Story of Britain's Lost Middleland, which investigates the rift created by Hadrian's Wall, and the issues of identity and culture in a region divided by the fabricated border.


  • On 20 January 2008 Stewart was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs
  • In August 2008, the UK media widely reported that Studio Canal and Brad Pitt's production company Plan B had bought the rights to a biopic of Stewart's life. The actor Orlando Bloom will apparently play Stewart. That Brad Pitt had bought the rights was confirmed on Lateline, on Australia's ABC on 29 July [year?]
  • Stewart speaks some French, Persian (Dari), and Indonesian. He has also studied at school, in the Foreign Office, and on his Asian travels Latin, Greek, Russian, Chinese, Serbo-Croat, Urdu, and Nepali languages. He acknowledges that the latter three languages are "very rusty".


  • The Places in Between, Picador, 2004–2006
  • Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq, Picador, 2006, ISBN 0-330-44049-7
    • Published in the US as The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, Harcourt, 2006, ISBN 0-15-101235-0
  • Can Intervention Work? Amnesty International Global Ethics Series, co-authored with Gerald Knaus. W.W. Norton and Co. (Published in the USA on 15 August 2011; due for UK publication on 7 October 2011). ISBN 0-393-08120-6.
  • The Marches: A Borderland Journey between England and Scotland, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, ISBN 978-0544108882
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