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Tue, 08.03.1926

Anthony Sampson, Writer born

Anthony Sampson

*Anthony Sampson was born on this date in 1926. He was a white British writer and journalist.

Anthony Terrell Seward Sampson was born in Billingham, County Durham, and was educated at Westminster School. In 1944 he joined the Royal Navy, and by the time he left in 1947, he was a sub-lieutenant in the RN Volunteer Reserve. He then studied English at Christ Church, Oxford. 

He married on his return from South Africa. His Sally was a Justice of the Peace and was a bench chairman of the Youth Court at Camberwell. In 1951 Sampson went to Johannesburg, South Africa, to become editor of the magazine Drum, remaining there for four years. Organizing the newspaper, Sampson nurtured the talent of Black African writers and journalistic thoroughbreds like Henry Nxumalo, Todd Matshikiza, and Can Themba.

Sampson was a friend of Nelson Mandela in the 1950s before he became politically active. After his return to the United Kingdom, he joined the editorial staff of The Observer, where he worked from 1955 to 1966. He also advised Nelson Mandela on Mandela's 1964 defense speech at the trial, which led to his conviction for life. He wrote a series of books, starting with Anatomy of Britain (1962). He explored the workings of the British state and other major social institutions, particularly the large corporation. He was the grandson of the linguist John Sampson, of whom he wrote a biography, The Scholar Gypsy: The Quest For A Family Secret (1997). Sampson attended the Rivonia Trial in support of Mandela and other ANC leaders, and in 1999 he published the authorized biography of Mandela.

He was interested in broad political and economic power structures but also saw power as personal. He occasionally offered psychoanalytical interpretations of power players, as in these passages from The Money Lenders: "[Bankers] seem especially conscious of time, always aware that time is money. There is always a sense of restraint and tension. (Is it part of the connection Freud observed between compulsive neatness, anal eroticism, and interest in money?)". He was also a founding member of the now-defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Anthony Sampson died on December 18, 2004. Sampson's archive, cataloged by the Bodleian Library, was made public for the first time in 2012.

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