Peter Godwin

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Peter Godwin

Peter Godwin
Born4 December 1957
OccupationJournalist, Author/Memoirist
Notable credit(s)
Foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times

Author of Mukiwa: White Boy in Africa

Author of When A Crocodile Eats The Sun

Author of The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe
Spouse(s)Joanna Coles[1]
RelativesGeorgina Godwin (broadcaster)

Peter Godwin (born 4 December 1957) is a Zimbabwean author, journalist, screenwriter, documentary filmmaker, and former human rights lawyer. Best known for his writings concerning the breakdown of his native Zimbabwe, he has reported from more than 60 countries and written several books.[2] He served as president of PEN American Center from 2012-2015 [3] and resides in Manhattan, New York with his wife, Joanna Coles, who was named Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan in 2012.[4] In 2016 Coles assumed the role of Chief Content Officer at Hearst Media.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

His mother is of English descent and is a former hospital doctor. His father was an engineer and is of Polish Jewish ancestry. His father's immediate family were killed in the Holocaust. Godwin grew up with his family in Rhodesia, where he attended St. George's College. He was conscripted into the British South Africa Police at the age of seventeen to fight in the Rhodesian Bush War. In 1978, his older sister Jain and her fiancé were killed when their car hit an army ambush. He studied Law at Cambridge University and International Relations at Oxford University.[6]


Early career[edit]

Godwin was formerly a foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times (London), covering wars in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Later he was the chief correspondent for the BBC's foreign affairs program, directing documentaries on Cuba, Czechoslovakia, and the Balkans.[2]

His early books include Rhodesians Never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia c1970 – 1980, co-written with Ian Hancock; The Three of Us, co-written with Joanna Coles; and Wild at Heart: Man and Beast in Southern Africa, with photographs by Chris Johns.


Godwin is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, and Vanity Fair, among other publications. In 2008 he wrote in the Times about the small islands of Likoma and Chizumulu on Lake Malawi, which are lacustrine exclaves of Malawi located in Mozambican territorial waters.[7] He has also reviewed books for the New York Times Book Review.[8]

In 2007, he called for the international community to "make it clear" to South African president Thabo Mbeki "that he, and the new South Africa, have a special moral obligation to help a nearby people who are oppressed and disenfranchised, having been assisted in its own struggle by just such pressure."[9] In 2008, Godwin suggested in The New York Times that the withdrawal of participating countries from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa might persuade Mbeki to use his country's economic power to draw Mugabe's rule in Zimbabwe "to an end in weeks rather than months."[10]

Other professional activities[edit]

In 2012, Godwin was named President of PEN American Center, the largest branch of the world's oldest literary and human rights organisation.[11] On March 20, 2012, Peter Godwin, as the incoming President of PEN American Center, read poetry by the imprisoned, Liu Xiaobo, with outgoing PEN President, Kwame Anthony Appiah.[12]

Godwin is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[13] He has been a Guggenheim Fellow[14], an Orwell Fellow,[15] and a MacDowell Fellow,[16] and has also taught writing at the New School, Princeton University, and Columbia University.[2]

Books and documentaries[edit]

Industry of Death[edit]

Godwin's film The Industry of Death (1993) was an investigation of Thailand's sex industry.


In 1997, Godwin published Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa. A memoir about growing up in Southern Rhodesia in the 1960s and 1970s during the Rhodesian Bush War, it was described by the Boston Globe as "devastatingly brilliant" and "[o]ne of the best memoirs to come out of Africa."[17] The book won The Orwell Prize in 1997. [18]

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun[edit]

In 2006, his second memoir, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, was published.[19] It details the ebbing of his father's life, set to the backdrop of modern-day Zimbabwe, and his discovery of his father's Polish Jewish roots.

The Fear[edit]

Godwin's book, The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe (2011),[20] chronicles the systematic campaign of murder and torture unleashed by Zimbabwe's autocratic ruler following his defeat at the polls. Godwin was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air (NPR) in March 2011 about the situation in Zimbabwe since the 2008 general election.[21]

The Fear was selected as a best book of 2011 by The New Yorker, The Economist, and Publishers Weekly.

Personal life[edit]

Godwin and Coles live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with their sons, Thomas and Hugo, who as of November 2019 were aged 20 and 18 respectively, and with a dog called Phoebe.[22] His daughter, Holly, who was 25 years old as of November 2019, is based in the UK.[23]


  1. ^ Yes, the Devil does wear Prada Evening Standard. 6 April 2009 Archived 9 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c "Peter Godwin". Oslo Freedom Forum. Archived from the original on 13 October 2013. Retrieved 10 May 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Haughney, Christine. "Up With Phoebe, the Dog". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Academics: Peter Godwin Columbia School of International and Public affairs Archived 15 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Godwin, Peter. "The Sea Inside". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  8. ^ Weiss, Philip. "A Cold Case". New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  9. ^ Godwin, Peter. "Showing Mugabe the Door". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  10. ^ Godwin, Peter. "Soccer 1, Mugabe 0". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  11. ^ "Press Release". PEN American Center. 6 March 2012.
  12. ^ "Kwame Anthony Appiah and Peter Godwin Read Poetry by Liu Xiaobo", PEN America, March 20, 2012
  13. ^ "Member Roster". Council on Foreign Relations. 14 May 2012.
  14. ^ "Fellows Roster". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 14 May 2012.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Fellows Roster". The MacDowell Colony. 14 May 2012.
  17. ^ Zug, James. "Reign of terror". Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Peter Godwin: Truth in black and white". The Independent. 9 March 2007. Archived from the original on 1 March 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  20. ^ "Where Dissidents Are the Prey, and Horror Is a Weapon". The New York Times. 23 May 2011.
  21. ^ "A Journalist Bears Witness to Mugabe's Massacre". NPR. 30 March 2011.
  22. ^ Profile of Joanna Coles, NYT, Nov. 2012
  23. ^ When A Crocodile Eats the Sun, 2006

External links[edit]