Sampson, Anthony (Terrell Seward) 1926-

views updated

SAMPSON, Anthony (Terrell Seward) 1926-

PERSONAL: Born August 3, 1926, in Durham, England; son of Michael Trevisky and Phyllis (Seward) Sampson; married Sally Virginia Bentlif, 1965; children: Katharine, Paul. Education: Christ Church, Oxford, M.A., 1950. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening.

ADDRESSES: Home—10 Hereford Mansions, Hereford Rd., London W2 5BA, England. Agent—A. D. Peters, 10 Buckingham St., Adelphi, London WC2, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Writer. Drum Magazine, Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa, editor, 1951-55; Observer, London, England, member of editorial staff, 1955-66, editor of Colour Magazine, 1965-66, chief American correspondent, 1973-74; University of Vincennes, Paris, France, associate professor, 1968-70; contributing editor, Newsweek, 1977—; director, New Statesman magazine, 1979-83; editor, The Sampson Letter, 1984-86. Editorial advisor, Brandt Commission, 1979-83. Trustee, Scott Trust, 1993—. Military service: Royal Navy, 1945-47; became sub-lieutenant.

MEMBER: Royal Society of Literature (fellow), Society of Authors (chair, 1992-94), Beefsteak Club (London, England).

AWARDS, HONORS: Prix Internationale de la Presse, 1976, for The Seven Sisters.

WRITINGS:

Drum: A Venture into New Africa, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1957, published as Drum: An African Adventure and Afterwards, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1983.

The Treason Cage: The Opposition on Trial in South Africa, Heinemann (London, England), 1958.

(With S. Pienaar) South Africa: Two Views of Separate Development (includes Old Fallacies with a New Look: Ignoring the Africans), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1959.

Common Sense about Africa (originally published, 1960), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1961.

Anatomy of Britain, Harper (New York, NY), 1962, first revised edition published as Anatomy of Britain Today, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1965; second revised edition published as The New Anatomy of Britain, 1971; third revised edition published as The Changing Anatomy of Britain, Random House (New York, NY), 1982; fourth revised edition published as The Essential Anatomy of Britain: Democracy in Crisis, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1993.

Macmillan: A Study in Ambiguity, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1967.

The New Europeans: A Guide to the Workings, Institutions, and Character of Contemporary Western Europe, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1968, published as Anatomy of Europe: A Guide to the Workings, Institutions, and Character of Contemporary Western Europe, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1968.

The Sovereign State of ITT, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1973.

The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped, Viking (New York, NY), 1975.

The Arms Bazaar: From Lebanon to Lockheed, Viking (New York, NY), 1977, published as The Arms Bazaar: The Companies, the Dealers, the Bribes: from Vickers to Lockheed, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1977.

The Money Lenders, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1981, published as The Money Lenders: Bankers and a World in Turmoil, Viking (New York, NY), 1982.

Empires of the Sky: The Politics, Contests and Cartels of World Airlines, Random House (New York, NY), 1984.

(Selector, with Sally Sampson) The Oxford Book of Ages, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1985.

Black and Gold: Tycoons, Revolutionaries, and Apartheid, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1987.

The Midas Touch: Money, People, and Power from West to East, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1989, published as The Midas Touch: Why the Rich Nations Get Richer and the Poor Stay Poor, Truman Talley/Plume (New York, NY), 1989, published as The Midas Touch: Understanding the Dynamic New Money Societies around Us, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.

Company Man: The Rise and Fall of Corporate Life, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

The Scholar Gypsy: The Quest for a Family Secret, J. Murray (London, England), 1997.

Mandela: The Authorized Biography, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.

ADAPTATIONS: The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped, was adapted as part of the sound recording A Ford, Not a Lincoln, Encyclopedia Americana/CBS News Audio Resource Library (New York, NY), 1975.

SIDELIGHTS: As a young man, Anthony Sampson went to South Africa fresh out of Oxford, and there he became the editor of Drum, a magazine aimed at the black South African audience. It was during this time—the early 1950s—that Sampson first met a young African prince named Nelson Mandela, a hotheaded dandy who had his suits made at the same tailor as the white diamond baron Harry Oppenheimer. Mandela was arrested in 1962, and defiantly faced down the death penalty to spend much of the next three decades in prison, a living symbol of the injustices of the apartheid regime and a rallying point for supporters of the African National Congress (ANC). Sampson covered Mandela's trial for the London Observer, and his first book publications drew upon his experiences and observations in South Africa.

After leaving Johannesburg, Sampson turned his attention to the social trends and political influences of business, both in his native Great Britain and worldwide. His Anatomy of Britain, which helps global executives and tourists understand British mores and institutions, was so successful in its first release in 1962 that the author published four revised editions over the next twenty years. In its 1993 incarnation, titled The Essential Anatomy of Britain, Sampson examines a "democracy in crisis," with Britain's entry into the Common Market (European Commission) seen as "a process of deliberate deception." Politics aside, noted Times Literary Supplement critic Paul Barker, the latest of the Anatomy series retains "much of the good old flavour. The new Lord Chief Justice … likes anoraks and dislikes wigs….Ata Guildhalldinner, Sampson observes 'wives sitting next to husbands in City fashion to prevent any hanky-panky.' He keeps his liberal fairmindedness."

Other Sampson topics can be wide-ranging, as in The Midas Touch: Money, People and Power from East to West, or more narrowly focused, as with Company Man: The Rise and Fall of Corporate Life. In The Midas Touch the author tackles the subject of money—"how it's spent and how people think and feel about it in different parts of the world," as R. W. Johnson noted in his New Statesman & Society review. It's a subject "so general as to have no boundaries or definition. In fact, Anthony Sampson gets away with it—just—in inimitable style, for the book is full of telling images, fascinating anecdotes and thought-provoking points."

One of Sampson's points illustrates the old maxim about money not being able to buy happiness; the author's "very rich seem an unhappy lot, restless and dissatisfied," observed Times Literary Supplement critic A. J. Sherman. The reviewer also cited the book's "plea for human ingenuity to exert itself on behalf of the planet with at least some of the energy devoted to amassing wealth." But the same anecdotal style that attracted New Statesman's Johnson was faulted by Sherman. "It is difficult to see for which audience Sampson has written this book," the critic concluded. To those with a firm grasp of global monetary trends, the volume offers "little that is novel." On the other hand, readers who "are new to the international economy … may find this a confusing introduction to the subject."

In Company Man Sampson examines a species at extinction: the old-fashioned (and inevitably male) employee who stays for decades at one corporation and retires with a generous pension. "In Britain he might have been a middle-manager in ICI or Shell, locked into a lifetime-employment pyramid of modest annual increments and triennial promotions, ready to go wherever the company sends him," as Laurence Baron described it in Spectator. "In America, he might have been a Ford assembly-line worker … or an IBM salesman in a dark suit and a white shirt." Whatever the job description, the company man has gone the way of the eighteenth-century clergyman, according to Sampson. In his place is the new breed of independent contractor, full-time freelancer, and "hot-desking" multispecialist who moves from one department—or company—to the next with alacrity. Downsizing, e-mail, teleconferencing, and faxes have become the new corporate culture with the result that "loyalty upwards or downward has become a meaningless concept," as Baron summarized it.

Company Man was faulted by Fortune contributor Brian O'Reilly, who complained that the book is "an incoherent litany of corporate bashing." The effect on the reader, according to O'Reilly, is the opposite of what Sampson apparently intended, "prompting me, a reader not entirely impressed with the workings of big business, to spring mentally to its defense." But the renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who assessed the book for the New York Times Book Review, contended that "few if any authors on this subject matter have so thoroughly covered both the experience and the literature" of the old and new company. But Galbraith did find "one problem: So strong is [the author's] flow of information and comment that one sometimes gets lost in the current"; Galbraith ultimately recommended Company Man as "the most luminous history of the business enterprise that we will have this year and, except as imitated, perhaps for a long time to come."

In 1999 Sampson published Mandela: The Authorized Biography, a highly acclaimed treatment of the man who had nearly single-handedly brought down the repressive white South African government from inside one of its jails and then became the country's first democratically elected president. "And no one is more qualified to write the authorized biography than … Sampson, who combines a global perspective with onthe-spot personal experience in South Africa since 1951," remarked Hazel Rochman in Booklist. Other reviewers also observed that Sampson's experience in South Africa, his long acquaintance with Mandela, and his unprecedented access to his subject's personal papers, letters, and prison records make him perhaps uniquely qualified to tell the story of Mandela's life. The story he tells is one-third the tale of Mandela's prison years, during which time he developed the intense humility that is his trademark, as well as the tactic of making friends and sympathizers out of his enemies, including his prison guards. These traits stood the new president in good stead as he guided his country through a potentially disastrous post-election period, most pivotally as a guiding force in the national reconciliation program, which is credited with saving the country from a bloody civil war.

Reviewers praised Mandela: The Authorized Biography, almost without qualification. Sampson's "book soars, like any good biography should, on the wings of detail," wrote Mark Gevisser in Foreign Affairs. "It is written with an affectless lucidity and is both acute and cool-headed in its assessments," Gevisser continued. "The triumph of Mandela is that it successfully demythologizes the man without in any way undermining his heroic stature," remarked John Carlin in the New York Times Book Review. "Indeed," Gevisser similarly stated, "one of the Mandela biography's greatest achievements is its subtle illumination of its protagonist's dismal failure as father and husband." For others, it is Sampson's dissection of Mandela's methods, which brings the South African miracle out of the realm of myth and into the realm of real politics, that is considered an important contribution made by Sampson's biography. "He manages to give readers a flawed, flesh-and-blood Mandela who is infinitely more interesting—and more admirable for being real—than the myth," concluded a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Many reviewers noted that Mandela is, along with Pope John Paul II, perhaps the most admired person in the world, but his own humility forces him to constantly deflate the image of the great man. Carlin remarked that "no doubt in time other biographers will be tempted to … smash the icon [that is Mandela's stature in the world's eyes]. Anthony Sampson's work will endure as a corrective to any such endeavor, as a lasting monument to Mandela's imperishable greatness."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

books

Sampson, Anthony, The Essential Anatomy of Britain, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1993.

periodicals

Atlantic, September, 1977.

Booklist, August, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Mandela: The Authorized Biography, p. 1982.

Books Magazine, summer, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 5.

Book World, September 5, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 5; October 24, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 6.

Business Week, October 30, 1995, p. 19.

Christian Science Monitor, September 30, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 19.

Economist, June 17, 1995, p. 85; May 29, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 83; December 4, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 4.

Foreign Affairs, January-February, 2000, Mark Gevisser, review of Mandela, p. 173.

Fortune, January 16, 1996, Brian O'Reilly, review of Company Man, p. 113.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 1116.

London Review of Books, July 9, 1987, p. 15; December 21, 1989, p. 16; August 19, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 27.

Management Today, July, 1995, p. 31.

National Review, December 21, 1973.

New Republic, January 27, 1968; November 19, 1977; April 14, 1982, pp. 35-37.

New Statesman & Society, November 3, 1989, R. W. Johnson, review of The Midas Touch, p. 35.

Newsweek, July 23, 1973.

New York Review of Books, September 15, 1977; June 11, 1987, pp. 20-27.

New York Times Book Review, June 18, 1972; December 7, 1975; July 24, 1977; January 3, 1982, pp. 1, 11; May 13, 1983, pp. 1, 30; February 10, 1985, pp. 9, 11; May 24, 1987, p. 11; November 5, 1995,p. 13; September 19, 1999, John Carlin, "Master of His Fate," p. 10; December 5, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 92.

Observer (London, England), November 18, 1990; May 23, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 11.

Publishers Weekly, December 21, 1984, p. 79; August 16, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 70.

Reference & Research Book News, Volume 14, review of Mandela, p. 43.

Spectator, October 2, 1982, pp. 20-21; June 17, 1995, pp. 40-41; May 29, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 31.

Time, August 6, 1973.

Times Educational Supplement, July 2, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 14.

Times Literary Supplement, September 24, 1971; October 8, 1982, p. 1093; November 16, 1984, p. 1303; April 3, 1987, p. 343; January 19, 1990, p. 69; January 8, 1993, p. 6; July 9, 1999, review of Mandela, p. 27.*

About this article

Sampson, Anthony (Terrell Seward) 1926-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article