Tim Clayton

Tim Clayton was educated at Norwich School and Saint Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he read English. After some years working for the print collector Christopher Lennox-Boyd, during which time he compiled George Stubbs: the Complete Engraved Works (1989), he won a research fellowship at Worcester College, Oxford, where he wrote The English Print 1688-1802 (1997) and catalogued the print collection of George Clarke (1661-1736).

He is the award-winning and bestselling author of a number of books on naval and military history, including the winner of the 2008 Mounbatten Literary Award, Tars, and the critically acclaimed Trafalgar: the Men, the Battle, the Storm, described as ‘a landmark book’ by the Observer.

Tim is a specialist in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century history and culture, being a leading authority on the printed images of that period.He was co-curator of the exhibition Bonaparte and the British which was on show at the British Museum in 2015 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and author, with Sheila O’Connell, of the accompanying catalogue. He was an associate editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and has contributed to the Cambridge History of the Book and the Chicago History of the Map.

He is an Honorary Research Fellow of the British Museum, an Associate Fellow of the University of East Anglia, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He is an experienced lecturer and has contributed to a variety of radio and television programmes.

His latest book This Dark Business: the Secret War against Napoleon, acclaimed in the Sunday Times as ‘groundbreaking history’, is about espionage, attempted assassination, propaganda, the manipulation of public opinion and the origin of the Napoleonic War. His latest book about James Gillray and the Business of Satire is scheduled for publication in autumn 2022.

This Dark Business

The secret war against Napoleon




Between two attempts in 1800 and 1804 to assassinate Napoleon Bonaparte, the British government launched a campaign of black propaganda of unprecedented scope and intensity to persuade George III’s reluctant subjects to fight the Napoleonic War, a war to the death against one man, the Corsican usurper and tyrant.


This Dark Business tells the story of the British government’s determination to destroy Napoleon Bonaparte by any means possible. We have been taught to think of Napoleon as the aggressor – a man with an unquenchable thirst for war and glory – but what if this story masked the real truth: that the British refusal to make peace either with revolutionary France or with the man who claimed to personify the revolution was the reason this Great War continued for more than twenty years? At this pivotal moment when it consolidated its place as number one world power Britain was uncompromising. To secure the continuing rule of Church and King, the British invented an evil enemy, the perpetrator of any number of dark deeds; and having blackened Napoleon’s name, with the help of networks of French royalist spies and hitmen, they also tried to assassinate him.


This Dark Business plunges the reader into the hidden underworld of Georgian politics in which, faced with the terrifying prospect of revolution, bribery and coercion are the normal means to secure compliance, a ruthless world of spies, plots and lies.


 Aged twelve Napoleon nailed his pet dog to the door; at fifteen he got the washerwoman’s daughter pregnant, poisoned the girl, then courted her sister. His favourite amusement was to frequent hospitals in order to enjoy the agony of sufferers. His mother was a whore, his sisters were whores, his wife was a whore but he couldn’t get her pregnant because he was actually a homosexual.

Academic Work

I am a Senior Fellow of the Paul Mellon Centre, an Honorary Research Fellow of the British Museum and an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of East Anglia.

I’m currently completing a book about James Gillray the caricaturist and his relationships with publishers, politicians and other personalities.

Wider current research interests include the print trade in the period 1778 to 1830, the production of political satire and propaganda and the military history of the Napoleonic wars.

Find out more about my recent research publications.

Tour Guide

I have guided tours for The Cultural Experience on the Napoleonic War in southern Spain in May 2017 focusing on Cadiz and the Battle of Trafalgar, and of the battlefields of Ligny, Quatre Bras and Waterloo in June 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

I frequently lecture in an academic way on on visual print culture in the long eighteenth century and in a more popular way on prints, battles, gardens, Stubbs, Gillray, caricature, spies and propaganda in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and am available to speak at conferences, literary festivals and other events.

See me at forthcoming events in your area, or enquire about booking me.


I am a frequent contributor to radio and television programmes, and also act as a historical consultant to broadcasters.

Please see my list of recent broadcast work.



Tim’s work encompasses best selling military histories, art history, academic research and TV and radio features and appearances.

This Dark Business: the Secret War against Napoleon
In Art History / History
In History
Bonaparte and the British
In Art History / History
Sea Wolves
In History
Finest Hour
In History
In History
In History
The English Print
In Art History
George Stubbs: the Complete Engraved Works
In Art History
Diana – Story of a Princess
In Popular Culture


Reviews of Waterloo…

Saul David, Evening Standard

The best of the many books commemorating next year's 200th anniversary of Napoleon's final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo

Allan Mallinson, Spectator

Nuanced, broad, searching and elegant . . . the overall integrity of his scholarship is undeniable. The book may well become the most authoritative account of the four-day campaign.

Simon Heffer, New Statesman

Tim Clayton's book is the best overview of the meeting of the three armies.

Max Hastings, Sunday Times

Stirring . . . a fabulous story, superbly told.

I encourage you to buy my books from my favourite bookshop, the Book Hive, in Norwich.