Edward Pearce was brought up in Darlington, where he attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. He then studied at Oxford.
Embarking on a career in journalism, in 1977 he became a leader writer for the Daily Express. In 1979 he moved to The Daily Telegraph, where he wrote leaders and sketches on the Commons. From 1987 to 1990 he was a columnist for The Sunday Times. Finally he became a columnist for the Guardian and sketch writer for the New Statesman until 1995. At this period he also wrote frequently for the Yorkshire Post, and was a panelist on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze. He was also a panellist on the BBC's Question Time and made several presentations of What the Papers Say. In later years he increasingly turned to the writing of biographical and historical studies of political figures.
He twice stood as a parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party. He is married, with one daughter, and lives near York.