Nora Beloff was born in London, England, to an émigré Russian–Jewish family. Her siblings included the historian Max Beloff (later Baron Beloff). She attended King Alfred's School and read history at Oxford University, where she graduated in 1940. During World War II, she worked for the political intelligence department of the Foreign Office and joined the British Embassy in Paris after the liberation of France in 1944. She left the diplomatic service in 1945 to join Reuters. She then worked for The Economist and The Observer, becoming one of the first British women to become resident foreign correspondents for national newspapers. She covered the Cold War for The Observer in Washington, D.C. and Moscow. She returned to London as a political correspondent for The Observer; this again made her a pioneer as the first female political correspondent of a British newspaper. She remained in this post until 1976, and then worked as a special correspondent. She wrote five books during her career: The General Says No (1963), The Transit of Britain (1973), Freedom under Foot (1976), No Travel Like Russian Travel (1979), and Tito's Flawed Legacy: Yugoslavia and the West 1939-84 (1985). In 1977, she married Clifford Makins, a sports editor for The Observer.