John K. Sutherland was born in York, England, and spent his holidays from school in Herriot country: Yorkshire in the 1940s and 50s. He was educated at a grammar school in England. Sutherland was immersed from an early age of self-study, in the diversity of Art, Architecture and Engineering, as well as Classical Literature, and the brilliant and difficult translation from the Persian, by Edward Fitzgerald, of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He grew up with a deep love of the language of Shakespeare and other Elizabethan playwrights, as well as Chaucer, Milton, and later, with the intricacies of Sir Walter Scott.
Sutherland fell in love with the age, so well written about, by Jane Austen—now brought to life by BBC productions—and more recently by the Regency novels of Georgette Heyer. His abiding interest is in the development of society from the difficult and convulsive beginnings of the Industrial Revolution and the often violently resisted process of change, which got us from there to here. The Good Old Days, so fondly remembered by no-one alive today, were as Hobbes suggested: ‘…solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’.