Jonathan Riley-Smith, former Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridge, was born 27 June 1938. He was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He received his BA (1960), MA (1964), PhD (1964) and LittD (2001) from Cambridge.
From 1964–1972 Dr. Riley-Smith taught in the Department of Medieval History at the University of St Andrews, first as assistant lecturer, until 1966, then as lecturer. From 1972 until 1978, he served on the history faculty at the University of Cambridge. He was professor of history at the University of London from 1978 until 1994. From 1994, Professor Riley-Smith has served on the faculties of history and divinity at the University of Cambridge. He was a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1997 to 1999 he was chair of the faculty of history.
He was a founder member (1980), acting secretary (1980–1982) and president (1987–1995) of the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East. Other positions he has held include Knight of Grace and Devotion, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Officer of Merit, Order Pro Merito Melitens, and Knight of Justice, Most Venerable Order of St John.
Books authored, co-authored or edited by Professor Riley-Smith include: The Knights of St John in Jerusalem and Cyprus, c. 1050–1310 (1967); Ayyubids, Mamlukes and Crusaders: Selections from the Tarikh al-Duwal wa’l Muluk of Ibn al-Furat, with Ursala and Malcom C. Lyons (1971); The Feudal Nobility and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1174–1277 (1973); What Were the Crusades? (1977; 2nd ed., 1992; 3rd ed., 2002); The Crusades: Idea and Reality, 1095–1274, with Louise Riley-Smith (1981); The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (1986); The Crusades: A Short History (1987); The Atlas of the Crusades, editor (1991); The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, editor (1995); Cyprus and the Crusades, editor with Nicholas Coureas (1995); Montjoie: Studies in the Crusade History in Honour of Hans Eberhard Mayer, editor with Benjamin Z. Kedar and Rudolf Hiestand (1997); The First Crusaders, 1095–1131 (1997); Hospitallers: The History of the Order of St John (1999); Al seguito delle Crociate Rome (2000); Dei gesta per Francos: Etudes sur les croisades a Jean Richard, editor with M. Balard and B. Z. Kedar (2001).
Professor Riley-Smith was married to Louise Field, a portrait painter. Together they had three children. He died on 13 September 2016.