Anthony Sampson

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Anthony Sampson
Anthony Sampson.jpg
Sampson in 1995, at his London home.
Born Anthony Terrell Seward Sampson
(1926-08-03)3 August 1926
Billingham, County Durham
Died 18 December 2004(2004-12-18) (aged 78)
Nationality English
Occupation Journalist, biographer
Known for Mandela: The Authorised Biography
Spouse(s) Sally Sampson (1965–2004)

Anthony Terrell Seward Sampson (3 August 1926 – 18 December 2004) was a British writer and journalist. His most notable and successful book was Anatomy of Britain, published to acclaim in 1962.[1] He was the grandson of linguist John Sampson, of whom he wrote a biography entitled The Scholar Gypsy: The Quest For A Family Secret (1997).[2]


Sampson was born in Billingham, County Durham,[3] and was educated at Westminster School. At the age of 18 he joined the Royal Navy, and in his time there (1944–47) rose to the rank of sub-lieutenant RN Volunteer Reserve.[3] He read English at Christ Church, Oxford, in the late 1940s.[3]


At the age of 25 he went to Johannesburg, South Africa, to be editor of the magazine Drum, remaining there for four years.[3] On returning to the United Kingdom he joined the editorial staff of The Observer, where he worked from 1955 to 1966.

He was the author of a series of major books, starting with Anatomy of Britain (1962), his main themes being how Britain works as a state, and large corporation. Sampson took an interest in broad political and economic power structure, but saw power as personal. His books read like series of interlocked biographies – of arms merchants, oil company executives, etc. He would offer psychoanalytical interpretations of the power players, such as this passages from The Money Lenders:

"[Bankers] seem specially conscious of time, always aware that time is money. There is always a sense of restraint and tension. (Is it part of the connection which Freud observed between compulsive neatness, anal eroticism, and interest in money?)"

He was a personal friend of Nelson Mandela from before Mandela ever became a political figure in South Africa. In 1964, Anthony attended the Rivonia Trial in support of Mandela and other ANC leaders. In 1999 he wrote an authorised biography of Mandela.[2]

He was also a founding member of the (now defunct) Social Democratic Party (SDP).[3]

Sampson's personal archive, catalogued by the Bodleian Library, was made public for the first time in 2012.[1]



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