Roderick Conway Morris was born in London. The first art book he ever owned was a small volume on the artist Hiroshige, a gift from Gentaro Matsumoto, his friend at junior school. He found the way Hiroshige represented rain particularly fascinating, and learned later that the artist was known as 'the master of rain'.
He went to King's College School in Wimbledon, where he had inspirational teachers: Frank Miles for English and Peter Herring for Art. He graduated from Cambridge University, where his teachers included Stavros Papastavrou, John Casey and R.R. Bolgar.
He first heard live Rebetika music when he was 11 years old on the Aegean island of Syros and, later encouraged by the Byzantine-historian-to-be Paul Magdalino and the Rebetika expert Stathis Gauntlett, he began his own post-graduate researches in Greece and Turkey into early Rebetika and Asia Minor lyrics, music and instruments (see Greek Cafe Music). While living in Athens and a student of the British School, then under the enlightened direction of Hector Catling, he learned to play the oud from the veteran refugee musician Yannis Soulis.
Subsequently, he also studied Modern and Ottoman Turkish at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. The work of his professor there, V.L. Ménage, on the 15th-century Ottoman secret agent and war hero, Barak Reis (Captain Barak) inspired him to write a novel 'Jem: Memoirs of an Ottoman Secret Agent', which was published in the UK and US and has been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch and Turkish.
After working as a publishers' editor and a researcher and scriptwriter for BBC radio, he became a writer on the arts for newspapers and magazines.
He has been writing on art and culture in Italy and elsewhere for the International Herald Tribune since 1991. He also contributes to the Spectator, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times and has written for a number of other publications.
Apart from 'Jem: Memoirs of an Ottoman Secret Agent', he was a contributor and co-editor of 'Anaskafes' (Excavations), a volume celebrating the 100th anniversary of the British School at Athens, illustrated with watercolours by Eileen Hogan. He wrote the entries on Greek and Turkish musical instruments in 'Groves' Dictionary of Musical instruments' and the article on Modern Greek Music for the Oxford Companion to Music.
He edited and wrote introductions for 'Senso and other Stories' by Camillo Boito and 'Sparrow' by Giovanni Verga, both translated by Christine Donougher, and he wrote the sections on 'The Ottomans' and 'The Moguls' for 'The European Emergence 1500-1600' in the Time-Life History of the World.
In 2004 he was awarded a 'Villa Veneta' Gold Medal by the Istituto Regionale Ville Venete, which oversees the conservation of over 4,270 historic villas in north-eastern Italy, 'for his article on Vincenzo Scamozzi published in the International Herald Tribune, which showed that subjects that might appear specialized could be successfully presented to a wide international public, and for numerous other articles on Italian cultural subjects.'