Michael Dobbs was born on 14 November 1948 in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, the son of nurseryman Eric and Eileen Dobbs. He was educated at Hertford Grammar School and Christ Church, Oxford University. After graduating in 1971 he moved to the United States. He attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, funded by a job as feature writer for the Boston Globe, and graduated in 1975 with an M.A., M.A.L.D., and PhD in nuclear defence studies. His doctoral thesis was published as SALT on the Dragon's Tail. He worked on The Boston Globe as an editorial assistant and political feature writer from 1971 to 1975. In 2007, Dobbs gave the Alumni Salutation at Tufts.
After gaining his Ph.D 1975, Dobbs returned to England and began working in London for the Conservative Party. He was an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, who was then leader of the Opposition, from 1977 to 1979. From 1979 to 1981 he was a Conservative MP speechwriter. He served as a Government Special Advisor from 1981 to 1986. He was the Conservative Party Chief of Staff from 1986 to 1987. He survived the Brighton Bombing in 1984 at the Conservative Party Conference. Considered a masterful political operator, he was called "Westminster’s baby-faced hit man", by The Guardian in 1987. In the John Major government, he served as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1994 to 1995, after which he retired from politics.
Dobbs began working at Saatchi & Saatchi as Deputy Advertising Chairman from 1983 to 1986. He was Director of Worldwide Corporate Communications from 1987 to 1988. He was Deputy Chairman, working directly under Maurice Saatchi from 1988 to 1991. From 1991 to 1998 he was a columnist for The Mail on Sunday. From 1998 to 2001 he hosted the current affairs program Despatch Box on BBC.
Michael Dobbs is most recognized as the bestselling author of 15 books. His writing career began in 1989 with the publication of House of Cards, the first in what would become a trilogy of political thrillers with Francis Urquhart as the central character. House of Cards was followed by To Play the King in 1992 and The Final Cut in 1994. Each novel was adapted by BBC into a miniseries. The trilogy received a combined 14 BAFTA nominations and two BAFTA wins and was voted the 84th Best British Show in History.
His 2004 novel Winston’s War was shortlisted for the Channel 4 Political Book of the Year Award and is in development to be adapted as a feature film. He has been a judge of the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and lectures at dozens of literary and fundraising events each year. His novels are also published in the United States.
Anthony Howard of The Times said “Dobbs is following in a respectable tradition. Shakespeare, Walter Scott, even Tolstoy, all used historical events as the framework for their writings. And, unlike some of their distinguished works, Dobbs's novel is, in fact, astonishingly historically accurate."
Dobbs is now a full time writer, and divides his time between London and Wiltshire. He is married and has four children.