Julian Bell studied at Leighton Park School and King's College in Cambridge.
Julian started his career as a contributor to the literary magazine The Venture, when he was a student. In 1935 Bell began to work as a professor of English at Wuhan University in China. However, he did not hold that post for long. Drawn by the political situation surrounding the Spanish Civil War, he moved to Spain and served as ambulance driver for the Spanish Republicans.
Julian wrote letters describing his relationship with a married lover K.
In 1937, Bell became increasing supportive of the socialist and anti-fascist movements and decided to enlist in the Spanish Civil War.
Bell was a member of Cambridge Apostles intellectual society.