Adams was born in Newbury, Berkshire on 9 May 1920. He was educated at Horris Hill School from 1926 until 1933. He then went to Bradfield College from 1933 until 1938. In 1938 he went up to Worcester College, Oxford to read Modern History. In July 1940, shortly after the declaration of war between the UK and Germany, Adams was called up to join the British Army in which he served until 1946. He served in the Middle East and in India but saw no action against either the Germans or the Japanese.
After his release from service in 1946, Adams returned to Worcester to continue his studies for a further two years. He took the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1948 and of Master of Arts in 1953.
After his graduation in 1948 he joined the English Civil Service and held the rank of Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, later part of the Department of the Environment. It was during this time that he began writing fiction in his spare time.
In 1972, Rex Collings finally agreed to publish Adams' first work, Watership Down, after seven other publishers had turned the manuscript down. The book gained him international acclaim almost immediately, and established him as among the foremost English writers. In 1974, following publication of his second novel, Shardik, he left the Civil Service to become a full-time author.
He originally began telling the story of Watership Down to his two daughters, and they insisted he publish it as a book. It took two years to write. Over the next few years Watership Down sold over a million copies worldwide. Watership Down has become a modern classic and in 1972 was awarded both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Award for Children's Fiction. To date, Adams' best-known work has sold over 50 million copies worldwide.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1975.
At one point Adams served as Writer in Residence at the University of Florida. Department of English | Graduate Programs — MFA in Fiction & Poetry and at Hollins University in Virginia.
He also made a voyage through the Antarctic in the company of Ronald Lockley, the well-known ornithologist.
He now lives with his wife, Elizabeth, in Whitchurch, Hampshire, within of his birthplace. Their daughters, to whom Adams originally related the tales that became Watership Down, are Juliet and Rosamond. He has six grandchildren, Lucy, Sarah, Miranda, Grace, Robert and Maeve.
Adams was the recipient of the inaugral Whitchurch Arts Award for inspiration in January 2010, presented at the Watership Down pub in Freefolk, Hampshire.
He celebrated his 90th birthday in 2010 with a party at the White Hart in his hometown of Whitchurch, Hampshire where Sir George Young Bt., MP presented him with a painting made by a local artist. Adams wrote a poetic piece celebrating his home of the past 28 years.
Richard Adams also came out of semi-retirement for his 90th birthday to pen a brand new story for a charity book Gentle Footprints to raise funds for [http://www.bornfree.org.uk/ The Born Free Foundation.
BBC Radio Berkshire presenter Rory McAllister is broadcasting a documentary celebrating Richard Adams's most successful novel, 'Watership Down' in November 2010. An exact date is yet to be released].
Nature Through the Seasons (1975) ISBN 978-0-7226-5007-3
The Tyger Voyage (1976) ISBN 978-0-394-40796-8
The Plague Dogs (1977) ISBN 978-0-345-49402-3
Together With The Most Lamentable Losse Of The Alcestis & Triumphant Firing Of The Port Of Chagres (1977) (also published as The Ship's Cat) ISBN 978-0-224-01441-0
Nature Day and Night (1978) ISBN 0-7226-5359-X (with Max Hooper)
The Girl in a Swing (1980) ISBN 978-0-7139-1407-8
The Iron Wolf and Other Stories (1980), published in the US as The Unbroken Web: Stories and Fables. color Illustrations by Yvonne Gilbert, b&w illustrations by Jennifer Campbell. ISBN 978-0-517-40375-4
The Phoenix Tree (1980, a collection by various authors, includes "The Story of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inle" from Watership Down) ISBN 978-0-380-76380-1
The Legend of Te Tuna (1982) ISBN 978-0-283-99393-0
Voyage Through the Antarctic (1982; with Ronald Lockley), Allen Lane ISBN 0-7139-1396-7
Maia (1984) ISBN 978-0-517-62993-2
A Nature Diary (1985) ISBN 0-670-80105-4 / 978-0-670-80105-3
The Bureaucats (1985) ISBN 0-670-80120-8, ISBN 978-0-670-80120-6
Traveller (1988) ISBN 978-0-394-57055-6
The Day Gone By (autobiography) (1990) ISBN 978-0-679-40117-9
Tales from Watership Down (collection of linked stories) (1996) ISBN 978-0-380-72934-0
The Outlandish Knight (1999) ISBN 978-0-7278-7033-9
Daniel (2006) ISBN 1-903110-37-8
Gentle Footprints (Short story, 'Leopard Aware' in charity book for Born Free) (2010) ISBN 978-1-907335-04-4