Anthony Sampson

Anthony Sampson bigraphy, stories - British writer and journalist

Anthony Sampson : biography

3 August 1926 – 18 December 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., The Observer, 26 February 2012. 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). The Guardian, 21 December 2004.]


Sampson was born in Billingham, County Durham, The Observer, 26 February 2012. 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. He read English at Christ Church, Oxford, in the late 1940s.

At the age of 25 he went to Johannesburg, South Africa, to be editor of the magazine Drum, remaining there for four years. 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 corporations. He was also a founding member of the (now defunct) Social Democratic Party (SDP).

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., according to the theme of each. He was a personal friend and authorised biography of Nelson Mandela.

Furthermore, the personal was the psychological. This passages from The Money Lenders is an example of his psychoanalytical interpretations:"[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?)"

Sampson’s personal archive, catalogued by the Bodleian Library, was made public for the first time in 2012.


  • Common Sense About Africa (1960)
  • Anatomy of Britain (1962)
  • Anatomy of Britain today (1965)
  • The New Anatomy of Britain (1971)
  • Changing Anatomy of Britain (1982)
  • The Essential Anatomy of Britain: Democracy in Crisis (1992)
  • The New Europeans (1968)
  • The Sovereign State of ITT (1973)
  • The Seven Sisters (a study of the international oil industry) (1975)
  • The Arms Bazaar (a study of the international arms trade) (1977)
  • The Money Lenders (a study of international banking) (1981)
  • Black Gold (about the crumbling of apartheid and the business/financial picture in South Africa) (1987)
  • Company Man (a study of corporate life) (1995)
  • The Scholar Gypsy: The Quest For A Family Secret (1997)
  • Mandela: The Authorised Biography (1999), winner of the Alan Paton Award
  • Who Runs This Place?: The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century (2004)
  • The Anatomist – autobiography (prepared for publication by Sampson’s wife and family) (2008, Politico’s Publishing, 978-1842-75229-6)