James Crawford is a writer and broadcaster, and for eleven years was the publisher at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the lead charitable body dedicated to the advancement of heritage, culture, education and environmental protection. Born in the Shetlands in 1978, he studied History and Philosophy of Law at the University of Edinburgh, winning the Lord President Cooper Memorial Prize. He went on to complete a Masters in Journalism and was a radio broadcast journalist before he moved to London to work as a literary agent. His clients included the scientist and broadcaster Professor Robert Winston, the writer and politician Roy Hattersley, and the late, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. He also represented the current Scotland international rugby coach Gregor Townsend, editing his 2007 autobiography Talk of the Toony, which was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
In 2008 James returned to Scotland to work as the publisher for Scotland's National Collection of Architecture and Archaeology - now part of HES. Since then, James has commissioned a series of award-winning and best-selling books, including the pioneering crime anthology Bloody Scotland (which won a Crime Writers Association Dagger Award fro Denise Mina’s contribution); A Work of Beauty: Alexander McCall Smith’s Edinburgh, the photographic memoir by one of Scotland’s most successful and best-loved authors; and Where Are the Women? A Guide to an Imagined Scotland, Sara Sheridan’s ground-breaking feminist re-examination of the built environment. In 2018, the HES Publishing Team were highly commended as runner-up in the Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award, and in 2019 they were shortlisted for the Academic Publisher of the Year Award at the British Book Awards.
James's first major work of non-fiction, Fallen Glory: The Lives and Deaths of the World’s Greatest Lost Buildings was published to critical acclaim in November 2015. Selected as a ‘Book of the Year’ by the New Statesman, the Independent and the Scotsman, it also led to media interviews on the Today Programme, Start the Week and Newsnight, among others. In 2016 Fallen Glory was shortlisted for the Saltire Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award. In March 2017 it was published in America by Picador, going on to feature in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and the National Post. The Wall Street Journal described it as ‘a book of and for the world’.
In 2018 James wrote and presented Scotland from the Sky on BBC1 Scotland, his first television documentary series. A second three-part series followed in Spring 2019. Over the past decade he has researched Scotland’s National Collection of Aerial Photography – an archive of millions of images held by HES – and has written a number of photographic books on its history, origins and application, including Above Scotland (2009), Above Scotland – Cites (2010), Scotland's Landscapes (2012), and Aerofilms: A History of Britain from Above (2014).
He is also the co-author of Who Built Scotland: A History of the Nation in 25 Buildings, with Alexander McCall Smith, Alistair Moffat, James Robertson and Kathleen Jamie, which was launched in August 2017 at a sell-out event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
In 2016 he was elected as Chair of the Board of Publishing Scotland, the network body for the publishing industry in Scotland; and in 2019 he was appointed as the Archive and Record Association’s first Scottish ‘Ambassador’ for their ‘Explore Your Archives’ campaign.
He lives in Edinburgh.