"A promise made is a debt unpaid.""Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out - it's the grain of sand in your shoe.""Be sure your wisest words are those you do not say.""His life, though none too long, Was never dull: Of woman, wine and song Bill had his full.""I have some friends, some honest friends, and honest friends are few; My pipe of briar, my open fire, A book that's not too new.""It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones who win in the lifelong race.""No man can be a failure if he thinks he's a success; If he thinks he is a winner, then he is."
Service spent his undergraduate years at King's College, Cambridge, where he studied Russian and classical Greek. He went to Essex and Leningrad universities for his postgraduate work, and taught at Keele and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, which later joined University College London, before joining Oxford University in 1998, where he is currently Professor of Russian History.
Between 1986 and 1995, Service published a three-volume biography of Lenin. He has also written several works of general history on 20th-century Russia such as A History of Twentieth-Century Russia. He has recently completed a trilogy of biographies: Lenin (2000), Stalin (2004) and Trotsky (2009).
It was revealed in April 2010 that Service was the victim of negative reviews posted semi-anonymously by historian Orlando Figes on the Amazon website. Service said about the experience, including being threatened with a libel action by Figes' lawyer before Figes' own eventual admission of responsibility, "I have a distaste for scholars who reach for the instrument of law but the damage done to me has been acute. I am just reserving my position and I am expecting there to be consequences. I don't want to go down into the cess-pit with him. I was terrified last week. I have been a gibbering wreck." Service told The Independent that he wanted to contribute to libel law reform. However, he used the libel laws against Figes for the next three months.