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Basil Davidson
Born 9 November 1914 (1914-11-09) (age 95)
Bristol England
Occupation Historian

Basil Davidson (born 9 November 1914 in Bristol, England) is an acclaimed British historian, writer and Africanist, particularly knowledgeable on the subject of Portuguese Africa prior to the 1974 Carnation Revolution .

He has written several books on the current plight of Africa. Colonialism and the rise of African emancipation movements have been central themes of his work.

He is an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).



From 1939, Davidson was a reporter for the London "Economist" in Paris, France. From December 1939, he was a Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)/MI-6 D Section (sabotage) officer sent to Budapest (see Special Operations Europe, chapter 3) to establish a news service as cover. In April 1941, with the Nazi invasion, he fled to Belgrade, Yugoslavia. In May, he was captured by Italian forces and was later released as part of a prisoner exchange. From late 1942 to mid-1943, he was chief of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) Yugoslav Section in Cairo, Egypt, where he was James Klugmann's supervisor. From January 1945 he was liaison officer with partisans in Liguria, Italy.

After the war, he was Paris correspondent for "The Times," "Daily Herald" ,"New Statesman", and the "Daily Mirror."

Since 1951, he became a well known authority on African history, an unfashionable subject in the 1950s. His writings have emphasised the pre-colonial achievements of Africans, the disastrous effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the further damage inflicted on Africa by European colonialism and the baleful effects of the Nation State in Africa.

Davidson's works are required reading in many British universities. He is globally recognized as an expert on African History.

He currently lives in Staffordshire.


Davidson's book "The Lost Cities of Africa" won him the 1960 Anisfield-Wolf Award, for the best book that dealt with racial problems in creative literature. His work on African history won the 1970 Gold Medal from Haile Selassie. In 1976, he won the Medalha Amilcar Cabral. He received honorary degrees from the Open University of Great Britain in 1980, and the University of Edinburgh in 1981. For his film series "Africa," he won the Gold Award, from the International Film and Television Festival of New York in 1984. He has won various other awards.

Selected Books

  • Let Freedom Come: Africa in Modern History
  • The Black Man's Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State;
  • A History of Africa
  • Lost Cities of Africa
  • African Kingdoms
  • African Civilization Revisited: From Antiquity to Modern Times
  • Old Africa Rediscovered
  • Black Mother
  • Africa in History
  • The Africans
  • The Liberation of Guine
  • In The Eye of the Storm: Angola's People
  • Africa in Modern History
  • Partisan Picture
  • Golden Horn (novel)
  • Special Operations Europe: Scenes From the Anti-Nazi War (1980)
  • Black Star
  • West Africa Before the Colonial Era




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