Anthony Sampson


Drum and South Africa »


Anthony Sampson (1926-2004) was an influential writer and journalist. He began his career in journalism in South Africa in 1951, editing the black magazine, Drum. There he met Nelson Mandela as the ANC was preparing for its Defiance Campaign against apartheid. On his return to England in 1955 he joined the Observer and published his first book, Drum: A Venture into the New Africa (1956). The work for which he is probably best known, Anatomy of Britain, an investigation of the workings of power in Britain, published in 1962, was an immediate success and was updated five times between 1965 and 2004.

He was a frequent visitor to South Africa, being present at the end of the trial of Nelson Mandela and other activists in 1964, when he was asked by Mandela to advise on his draft defence speech. In 1999, as Mandela retired as President, Sampson's authorised biography, Mandela, appeared. He was prolific as a journalist and author throughout his working life, publishing over twenty books. His style of investigative journalism, often focussing on corporate business, gave him a wide circle of important and interesting contacts.

The papers

The papers are predominantly an archive of Sampson's professional career as a journalist and writer. They include research material for his books, drafts and proofs of his books and articles, and a wide and varied series of correspondence. The latter reflects his interests in South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement, politics, business and publishing, with a list of correspondents including some of the most famous names in 20th-century Britain and elsewhere.


The papers were deposited in the Bodleian Library by Anthony Sampson's widow, Sally, in 2008.


The papers are available to researchers in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room of the Bodleian.

Project Team

Chrissie Webb and Catherine Parker
Osney One,
Osney Mead

Tel. 01865 277597


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Drum and South Africa »

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