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R.W. Johnson speaking at the 10th Barry Streek Memorial lecture in Cape Town, South Africa in August 2016.

R. W. Johnson (born 1943) is a British journalist, political scientist, and historian who lives in South Africa.[1] Born in England, he was educated at Natal University and Oxford University, as a Rhodes Scholar. He was a fellow in politics at Magdalen College, Oxford, for twenty-six years;[2] he remains an emeritus fellow. His 2015 book Look Back in Laughter: Oxford's Postwar Golden Age is a memoir of his years at Magdalen, including his work with college president Keith Griffin to rescue the College's finances and buildings.[3] In reviewing his memoirs, The Economist described Johnson as a "romantic contrarian liberal".[4]

On his return to South Africa in 1995, he became director of the Helen Suzman Foundation in Johannesburg until 2001.[5]

He is currently a South Africa correspondent for the London Sunday Times and also writes for the London Review of Books[6] His articles for the LRB generally cover South African and, to a lesser extent, Zimbabwean affairs.

In early March 2009, Johnson injured his left foot while swimming, it became infected with necrotizing fasciitis[7] and his leg was amputated above the knee.[8]


  • (ed. with Christopher Allen) African Perspectives (1970)
  • How Long Will South Africa Survive? (1977)
  • The Long March of the French Left (1981)
  • Shootdown: The Verdict on KAL 007 (1985)
  • Heroes and Villains: Selected Essays (1990)
  • (ed. with Lawrence Schlemmer) Launching Democracy in South Africa: South Africa's First Open Election, April 1994 (1996)
  • (ed. with David Welsh) Ironic Victory: Liberalism in Post-Liberation South Africa (1998)
  • South Africa; The First Man, the Last Nation (2004)
  • South Africa's Brave New World: The Beloved Country since the End of Apartheid (2009)
  • How Long Will South Africa Survive?: The Looming Crisis (2015)
  • Look Back in Laughter: Oxford's Postwar Golden Age (2015)


  1. ^ The Guardian contributor profile.
  2. ^ Ivan Fallon "'South Africa's Brave New World', By R. W. Johnson", The Independent, 17 April 2009
  3. ^ R W Johnson: Look Back in Laughter: Oxford's Postwar Golden Age, Threshold Press (2015).
  4. ^ "Romantic contrarian". The Economist. Retrieved 2017-11-14.
  5. ^ Orion Archived 2009-01-06 at the Wayback Machine author profile.
  6. ^ London Review of Books contributor page.
  7. ^ R. W. Johnson "Diary", London Review of Books, 6 August 2009, p41
  8. ^ "RW Johnson Loses Part of Leg After Lagoon Swim", Book SA - News, 23 March 2009