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Richard Davenport-Hines (born 21 June 1953 in London) is a British historian and literary biographer, best known for his biography of the poet W. H. Auden.
He was educated at St Paul's School, London and Selwyn College, Cambridge (which he entered as Corfield Exhibitioner in 1972 and left in 1977 after completing a PhD on the history of British armaments companies during 1918-36). He was a Research Fellow at the London School of Economics, 1982–86, where he headed a research project on the globalisation of pharmaceutical companies. He was joint winner of the Wolfson Prize for History and Biography in 1985 and winner of the Wadsworth Prize for Business History in 1986. He now writes and reviews in a number of literary journals, including the Literary Review and The Times Literary Supplement. He is an adviser to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, to which (as of January 2011) he has contributed 157 biographies.
He was a trustee of the London Library between 1996 and 2005, and has been on the committee of the Royal Literary Fund since 2007. He is a member of the Athenaeum Club, London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature since 2005 and the Royal Historical Society since 1984. He was chairman of the judges of the Biographers’ Club Prize in 2008, and of the judges of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History in 2010. He is also one of the judges of the Cosmo Davenport-Hines Prize for Poetry awarded annually since 2009 to members of King's College London – named in commemoration of his son who died on 9 June 2008 aged 21. He also inaugurated the Cosmo Davenport-Hines Memorial Lecture given annually since 2010 under the joint auspices of King's College London and the Royal Society of Literature.
He has contributed to several volumes of historical or literary essays. These include an essay on English and French armaments dealers operating in eastern Europe in the 1920s in Maurice Lévy-Leboyer, Helga Nussbaum and Alice Teichova (editors), Historical Studies in International Corporate Business (1989); an essay on HIV in Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich (editors), Sexual Knowledge, Sexual Science (1994); a historical critique of drugs prohibition laws in Selina Chen and Edward Skidelsky, High Time for Reform (2001); a chapter in the Cambridge Companion to W.H. Auden (2005); and a memoir in Peter Stanford (editor), The Death of a Child (2011).
- Dudley Docker: The Life and Times of a Trade Warrior (Cambridge University Press, 1984)
- Markets and Bagmen, Studies in the History of Marketing and British Industrial Performance, 1830–1939 (Ashgate, 1986) editor
- Speculators and Patriots: Essays in Business Biography (Cass, 1986)
- Business in the Age of Reason (Cass, 1987) editor with Jonathan Liebenau
- Enterprise Management and Innovation (Cass, 1988) editor with Geoffrey Jones
- British Business in Asia Since 1860 (Cambridge University Press, 1989) editor with Geoffrey Jones
- The End of Insularity - Essays in Comparative Business History (Cass, 1989) editor with Geoffrey Jones
- Business in the Age of Depression & War (Cass, 1990) editor
- Capital Entrepreneurs and Profits (Cass, 1990) editor
- Sex , Death and Punishment: Attitudes To Sex & Sexuality In Britain Since The Renaissance (Collins, 1990)
- Glaxo A History to 1962 (Cambridge University Press, 1992) with Judy Slinn
- The Macmillans (Heinemann, 1992)
- Vice - An Anthology (Hamish Hamilton, 1993)
- Auden (Heinemann, 1995)
- Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin (Fourth Estate, 1998)
- The Pursuit of Oblivion: A global history of narcotics 1500-2000 (Weidenfeld, 2001)
- A Night at the Majestic (Faber, 2006)/ (in USA, Proust at the Majestic)
- Ettie – the Intimate Life and Dauntless Spirit of Lady Desborough (Weidenfeld, 2008)
- Titanic Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew (HarperCollins, 2012)
- An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo (HarperCollins, 2013)