Giddens was born and raised in Edmonton, London, and grew up in a lower middle-class family, son of a clerk with London Transport. He was the first member of his family to go to university. He got his first academic degree from Hull University in 1959, and later took a Master's degree from the London School of Economics, followed by a PhD from King's College, Cambridge in 1974. In 1961 he started working at the University of Leicester where he taught social psychology. At Leicester, which was considered to be one of the seedbeds of British sociology, he met Norbert Elias and began to work out his own theoretical position. In 1969 he was appointed to a position at the University of Cambridge, where he later helped create the Social and Political Sciences Committee (SPS - now PPSIS), a sub-unit of the Faculty of Economics.

Giddens worked for many years at Cambridge as a fellow of King's College and was eventually promoted to a full professorship in 1987. He is cofounder of Polity Press (1985). From 1997 to 2003 he was director of the London School of Economics and a member of the Advisory Council of the Institute for Public Policy Research. He was also an adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; it was Giddens whose "third way" political approach has been Tony Blair's (and Bill Clinton's) guiding political idea. He has been a vocal participant in British political debates, supporting the center-left Labour Party with media appearances and articles (many of which are published in New Statesman). Giddens is a regular contributor to the research and activities of progressive think-tank Policy Network. He was given a life peerage in June 2004, as Baron Giddens, of Southgate in the London Borough of Enfield and sits in the House of Lords for Labour.

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