Michael Ignatieff was born and educated in Toronto. He gained a doctorate in history at Harvard and has held a senior research fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge, and visiting posts at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, the University of California at Berkeley, Notre Dame, the University of London and the London School of Economics. During his academic career he published A Just Measure of Pain: Penitentiaries in the Industrial Revolution and The Needs of Strangers, an essay on the philosophy of human needs. He has been awarded five honorary degrees.
Since 1984, his work as a free-lance writer has won him numerous awards. The Russian Album, a family memoir, won both Canada’s Governor General Award and the W. H. Heinemann Prize of the Royal Society of Literature. His second novel Scar Tissue was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1993. His books have been translated into ten languages.
His screenplays include 1919 starring Paul Scofield, and Eugene Onegin, starring Ralph Fiennes. His major work on television has been as a writer of films on international issues. A six part documentary series Blood and Belonging on nationalism won major awards in Canada and the United States. A book of the same title won the Lionel Gelber Award for the best writing on foreign affairs, as well as the Cornelius Ryan Award of the Overseas Press Club in New York. Getting Away with Murder, a BBC2 documentary on the South African Truth Commission won awards from the Monte Carlo television festival and the Royal Television Society.
His writing appears regularly in The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Time, The New York Times Book Review, Prospect, and Granta Magazine.
Warrior’s Honour: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience appeared in 1998, together with Isaiah Berlin: a life, the authorised biography of the liberal philosopher. Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond appeared in February 2000, and his three part series, Future War, appeared on BBC Television in March, 2000 and on the A and E network in the US in August, 2000.
In April 2000, he delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Rights at Princeton and in the autumn the Massey Lectures at the University of Toronto.
In 1999-2000,he served as a member of the independent international commission on Kosovo, chaired by Judge Richard Goldstone of South Africa, due to report to the Secretary General of the United Nations in October 2000.
Beginning in September 2000, he takes up a post as Visiting Professor at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He will also serve on the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, launched by the Canadian Prime Minister at the Millennium Summit at the UN in September. This commission, chaired by Gareth Evans and Mohammeded Sahnoun, and funded by the Canadian government as well as major US foundations, will report to the UN Secretary General in October 2001.