David Olusoga

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David Olusoga

BornDavid Adetayo Olusoga
January 1970 (age 52)
Lagos, Nigeria
OccupationHistorian, writer, broadcaster, filmmaker
Alma materUniversity of Liverpool
Notable worksBlack and British: A Forgotten History (2016)

David Adetayo Olusoga OBE (born January 1970[1]) is a British historian, writer, broadcaster, presenter and film-maker. He is Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester.[2] He has presented historical documentaries on the BBC and contributed to The One Show and The Guardian.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

David Olusoga was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to a Nigerian father and British mother.[4] At five years old, Olusoga migrated to the UK with his mother and grew up in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.[5] He was one of a very few non-white people living on that council estate. By the time he was 14, the National Front had attacked his house on more than one occasion, requiring police protection for him and his family. They were eventually forced to leave as a result of the racism.[6] He later attended the University of Liverpool to study the history of slavery,[7] and in 1994, graduated with a BA (Hons) History degree,[8] followed by a postgraduate course in broadcast journalism at Leeds Trinity University.[9]

Career and recognition[edit]

Olusoga began his TV career behind the camera, first as a researcher on the 1999 BBC series Western Front. Realising that black people were much less visible in the media and historically, Olusoga became a producer of history programmes after university, working from 2005 on programmes such as Namibia: Genocide and the Second Reich, The Lost Pictures of Eugene Smith and Abraham Lincoln: Saint or Sinner?.

Subsequently he became a television presenter, beginning in 2014 with The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire, about the Indian, African and Asian troops who fought in the First World War, followed by several other documentaries and appearances on BBC One television's The One Show. In 2015 it was announced that he would co-present Civilisations, a sequel to Kenneth Clark's 1969 television documentary series Civilisation, alongside the historians Mary Beard and Simon Schama.[6] His most recent TV series include Black and British: A Forgotten History, The World's War, A House Through Time and the BAFTA award-winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners.[2]

Also a writer, Olusoga has written stand-alone history books as well as ones to accompany his TV series. He is the author of the 2016 book Black and British: A Forgotten History, which was awarded both the Longman–History Today Trustees Award 2017 and the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize 2017. His other books include The World’s War, which won First World War Book of the Year in 2015, The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism (2011) which he co-authored with Casper Erichsen, and Civilisations (2018). He was also a contributor to the Oxford Companion to Black British History, and has written for The Guardian, The Observer, New Statesman and BBC History magazine;[10] since June 2018 he has been a member of the board of the Scott Trust, which publishes The Guardian.[11]

Olusoga was included in the 2019 and 2020 editions of the Powerlist, a ranking of the 100 most influential Black Britons,[12][13] and in the 2021 edition he made the Top 10 most influential, ranking eighth.[14]

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to history and to community integration.[15] He received his medal from the Queen in January 2019.[16]

On appointing him as a professor in 2019, the University of Manchester described him as an expert on military history, empire, race and slavery, and "one of the UK's foremost historians".[2] Olusoga gave his inaugural professorial lecture on "Identity, Britishness and the Windrush" at the University of Manchester in May 2019.[17]

In response to the global Black Lives Matter movement with protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, Olusoga's Black and British: A Forgotten History was re-broadcast on the BBC and made available on BBC iPlayer[18] along with Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners, also fronted by him.[19]

On 13 November 2020, the BBC announced that it had commissioned Barack Obama Talks To David Olusoga, a special programme in which President Obama discusses the first volume of his presidential memoirs, A Promised Land.[4] The programme aired on 19 January 2021.

In January 2021 Olusoga appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, where he discussed his childhood experiences of racism and his love of blues music. Among his choices of music were "Can't Blame the Youth" by Bob Marley and the Wailers and "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" by Blind Willie Johnson. His luxury item was an acoustic guitar and his choice of book was The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell: An Age Like This, 1920–40.[20]

In December 2021, it was announced that Olusoga had been awarded the President’s Medal, the British Academy's most prestigious accolade, for telling diverse stories from Britain’s past.[21] Olusoga is the 39th person to receive the medal, which has been awarded since 2010, and recognises services to the humanities and social sciences. Previous recipients include Margaret Atwood, Jimmy Wales and Hilary Mantel.

Awards and honours[edit]


  • The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire (2014)
  • Fighting for King and Empire: Britain's Caribbean Heroes (2015)
  • The One Show (various episodes)
  • Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners (2015)
  • Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016)
  • Timewatch: "British Empire – Heroes and Villains" and "Dictators and Despots" (both 2017)
  • Civilisations (two of nine episodes, "First Contact" and "The Cult of Progress") (2018)
  • A House Through Time (2018–present)
  • The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files (2019)
  • Statue Wars: One Summer in Bristol (2021)
  • Our NHS: A Hidden History (2021)


  • The Kaiser's Holocaust: Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism (Faber and Faber, 2011); ISBN 978-0571231423 (with Casper W. Erichsen)
  • The World's War (Head of Zeus, 2015); ISBN 978-1781858981
  • Black and British: A Forgotten History (Macmillan, 2016); ISBN 978-1447299745
  • Civilisations: First Contact/The Cult of Progress (Profile Books, 2018); ISBN 978-1781259979
  • The Black History Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained (DK, 2021); ISBN 978-0744042146


  1. ^ "David Adetayo OLUSOGA". Companies House. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "David Olusoga OBE becomes Professor at The University of Manchester" (Press release). University of Manchester. 7 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  3. ^ "David Olusoga". The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b David Olusoga's Biography at biogs.com.
  5. ^ Meechan, Simon (9 April 2019). "David Olusoga won't let racists define his youth in the North East". nechronicle. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b Manzoor, Sarfraz (9 November 2016). "David Olusoga is the new face of BBC history – but as a boy he was driven out of his home by racists". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 3 April 2019. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  7. ^ "David Olusoga, lecturer at Slavery Remembrance Day 2015". International Slavery Museum. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Honorary degree nominations". University of Liverpool. 10 March 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Honorary, David Olusoga tells graduates to 'be lucky'". University of Liverpool. 20 July 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  10. ^ "Profile: David Olusoga". London Review Bookshop. Retrieved 15 January 2021,
  11. ^ Weaver, Matthew (1 September 2020). "David Olusoga: I wanted to join protestors who tore down Colston statue". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  12. ^ Hicks, Amber (23 October 2018). "List of 100 most influential black people includes Meghan Markle for first time". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  13. ^ Mills, Kelly-Ann (25 October 2019). "Raheem Sterling joins Meghan and Stormzy in top 100 most influential black Brits". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Lewis Hamilton named most influential black person in UK". BBC News. 17 November 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  15. ^ a b "No. 62507". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 2018. p. N13.
  16. ^ Gayle, Damien (1 April 2019). "Word 'empire' made accepting OBE difficult, says David Olusoga". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  17. ^ "David Olusoga OBE Inaugural Professorial Lecture: 'Identity, Britishness and the Windrush'". Events at the University of Manchester. 22 May 2019. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  18. ^ Alex, Susannah (8 June 2020). "BBC to re-air historian David Olusoga's documentary series Black and British: A Forgotten History". Digital Spy. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  19. ^ "Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners". BBC iPlayer. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  20. ^ "David Olusoga, historian and broadcaster". Desert Island Discs. BBC Radio 4. 15 January 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  21. ^ "Historian David Olusoga awarded President's Medal". the Guardian. 9 December 2021. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  22. ^ "Historian David Olusoga awarded President's Medal". the Guardian. 9 December 2021. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  23. ^ "TV broadcaster receives top honour from University of Leicester". University of Leicester. 25 January 2019. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  24. ^ "Honorary graduates: David Adetayo Olusoga". University of Leeds. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  25. ^ Sharp, Robert (10 July 2017). "David Olusoga wins PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize 2017 for Black and British". English PEN. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  26. ^ "Longman-History Today Awards 2017: The Winners | History Today". www.historytoday.com. 29 June 2017. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  27. ^ "Bafta TV Awards 2016: the full list of winners". The Daily Telegraph. 9 May 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  28. ^ "The Paddy Power Political Book Awards". Paddy Power Political Book Awards. Archived from the original on 6 February 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2017.

External links[edit]