Historiographer Royal in Scotland. Born in England, Smout was educated at the Leys School and Clare College (Cambridge). He was appointed an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh in 1959 and rose to become Professor of Economic History in 1970. He left Edinburgh to take the Chair in Scottish History at the University of St. Andrews (1980-91). He founded the Institute for Environmental History at St. Andrews and served as its Director (1992 - 2001). He has also served as Deputy Chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage (1991-7), a Member of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, a Member of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts and a Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland.
Smout was appointed Historiographer Royal in Scotland in 1993. He was awarded a CBE the following year and holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Edinburgh (1996), St. Andrews (1999), Glasgow (2001) and Stirling (2002). Smout is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
A prolific author, his works include Scottish Trade on the Eve of Union, 1660 - 1707 (1963), A History of the Scottish People 1560 - 1830 (1969), Scotland and Europe 1200 - 1850 (1986), Scottish Voices 1745 - 1960 (1990), Nature Contested: Environmental History in Scotland and Northern England since 1600 (2000) and People and Woods in Scotland : A History (2003).
Smout lives in Anstruther (Fife).