Laurence is a former Head of BBC TV History programmes and Creative Director of BBC Television History.
He has written seven history books: a theory of communication based on the work of Josef Goebbels: Selling Politics (BBC Books 1992), Nazis: A Warning from History (BBC Books 1997), War of the Century (BBC Books 1999), Horror in the East (BBC Books 2001) Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution' (BBC Books 2005) and Their Darkest Hour (Ebury Press 2007) a critically acclaimed collection of essays about people tested to the extreme in WW2. His latest book, published in 2008 by BBC Books, is World War Two: Behind Closed Doors. Stalin, the Nazis and the West.
His career as a writer and filmmaker, specializing in the Nazis and World War Two, stretches back nearly twenty years. In 1990 Laurence created the investigative film British Betrayal about alleged British war crimes at the end of the war and in 1992 he made the acclaimed Goebbels - Master of Propaganda. He then wrote, produced and directed the six part series Nazis: A Warning from History which first transmitted on BBC TV in 1997 and subsequently sold to more than thirty countries. The series won him a myriad of awards, including a George Foster Peabody Award, a BANFF festival award and gained him the most prestigious award a British television filmmaker can win - a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award. The Daily Mail called the Nazis: A Warning from History ‘one of the best documentary series of all time’, the Daily Telegraph ‘the series that stands quite alone.’ He followed that series with War of the Century (1999) a four part examination of the Hitler/Stalin conflict and the two part Horror in the East (2000) about the war against Japan. All of these three series are now used as major teaching aides in many schools and universities
In 2005 he wrote and produced the six part Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution' for BBC Television and PBS. The series was been enormously successful, not just in Britain where it transmitted to universal acclaim and audiences of over 4 million. The series has subsequently transmitted in France, Spain, Poland, Germany, America and many other countries. Acclaimed by the press (the London Times saying the series ‘almost justified’ the renewal of the BBC’s Charter ‘on its own’) the series has won major television awards in France, and in December 2005 was awarded the prestigious British documentary prize – the Grierson Award - with Laurence also winning the Historical Film of the Year award from History Today magazine. In 2006 the series was also voted best historical television programme of the year by Televisual magazine, and received their ‘Bulldog’ award for the best of British television.
In 2005 Laurence wrote and presented an analysis of his work – Inside the Nazi State – for UK TV History. And, also in 2005, he was invited to deliver the annual Holocaust Education Trust public lecture at the House of Lords.
Laurence’s latest television project, a six part drama documentary series, ‘World War Two: Behind Closed Doors. Stalin the Nazis and the West’, began transmitting on BBC 2 in November 2008 to critical acclaim. (“An extraordinary series.” The Daily Mail; “ Excellent.” The Guardian; Absorbing and shocking too.” The Observer.) and the accompanying book soon became a history best-seller and a critical success (“The relationship between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill makes an ugly story, and Rees tells it extraordinarily well.” The Sunday Times; “...memorable in the extreme” Literary Review; “This book illuminates many shady corners of Britain's and America's dealings with Stalin and each other.” Daily Mail).
Laurence was educated at Solihull School and the University of Oxford and has worked in television for more than twenty years - with the vast majority of his time spent in the production of historical documentaries. The Times of London has described him as ‘Britain’s most distinguished producer of historical documentaries’. In October 2007 Antony Beevor, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said that ‘Laurence Rees has done more for good history on television in this country than anyone else’ whilst Sir Max Hastings, writing in the Sunday Times in October 2008 said that “Rees is vastly well informed about the second world war. His judgments can seldom be faulted”.
In July 2005 Laurence received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Sheffield for services to television and history. The citation reading: ‘Scholars across the world owe Laurence Rees a considerable debt of gratitude for his unique and immense contribution towards historical understanding.’
In 2006 he won the History Book of the Year Award at the British Book Awards for Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution'. He thus became the first person ever to win both a British Book Award, as well as a BAFTA for a television series he wrote, produced and directed.
In New York in January 2009, Laurence was presented with the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by ‘History Makers’, the worldwide congress of History and Current Affairs programme makers.