Raymond Briggs was born in 1934, in Wimbledon, South London. He enjoyed primary school but when he won a place at Rutlish Grammar School he found it, "awful and snobbish and only really interested in sport. I loved soccer and snooker and table tennis but only rugby and cricket counted as sport so I was seen as unsporty. I was also a very late developer and was this tiny figure of 5'2" and my voice hadn't broken by the time I left. Everyone else had turned into these great hairy men so I wasn't much use at rugby."
He studied at Wimbledon School of Art where his ambition to become a cartoonist and illustrator was highly disapproved of. Briggs says the art-school life classes were useful to him but he never fully connected with fine art at Wimbledon. After four years at Wimbledon, Briggs was conscripted into the Royal Corps of Signals at Catterick and like all art students was made a draughtsman, although he was disappointed to be given electrical and radio circuits to draw.
After two years of National Service he took up a place at Slade School of Fine Art, where he studied until 1957. It was while working on Father Christmas that his frustration at the limitations imposed by the strict 32-page picture-book format forced him into the "bottomless abyss of strip cartooning". His approach, visual and literary, was seen as groundbreaking.
Later as his career really began to take off he began to write and illustrate wryly subversive stories for children, famously portraying Father Christmas as an over-worked curmudgeon in this 1973 Greenaway winner. In other picture books he has explored overtly political issues, including nuclear warfare in When the Wind Blows, his parable of a middle-aged couple trying to follow government advice in the event of a nuclear attack on Britain.