Richard Dowden

A regular blog from RAS Director, Nicholas Westcott.


We have all seen rocket launches on TV but nothing prepares you for the real thing. From a couple of miles away, the rocket looked like a distant steeple glistening peacefully in the sun. Assembled in an open air viewing platform, we were casually chatting. Then the countdown began. As it reached “Two ….One”, a vast explosion of smoke roiled out from the base of the rocket. A painfully bright tongue of flame spurted downwards and the silver tube rose, then shot towards the... more
Monday, 24 June 2013
Written by Richard Dowden
I am glad the Kenyans caught up in the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s have finally got compensation from the UK Government for being tortured. As the deeply racist and imperialist Enoch Powell said at the time, Britain did not deserve to have an empire if its security forces behaved in such a way. I hope we will now be able to read those files that the Foreign Office buried at the time and pretended no longer existed. For years they told researchers they could not be found or must have been... more
  If you hadn’t noticed it is the United Kingdom’s turn to host the G8 again. Not as important these days as the G20 but, as a gathering of the old capitalist nations, it takes serious decisions (and sometimes implements them). The last time Britain hosted the Summit in 2005, Tony Blair dedicated the event to Africa and persuaded all the G8 leaders to sign a pledge that they would give 0.7% of their GDP in aid to poor countries. Britain is the only one still keeping the... more
Monday, 15 April 2013
Written by Richard Dowden
Mrs Thatcher played a pivotal role in the ending of Apartheid in spite of herself. She once declared the African National Congress to be a “typical terrorist organisation… Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land”. But she gave these “terrorists” diplomatic protection. In the mid 1980s the South African government blew up the ANC offices in London and tried to kidnap its members in London including Thabo... more
Friday, 22 March 2013
Written by – By Richard Dowden
A conversation with Chinua Achebe was a deep, slow and gracious matter. He was exceedingly courteous and always listened and reflected before answering. In his later years he talked even more slowly and softly, savouring the paradoxes of life and history. He spoke in long clear, simple sentences which often ended in a profound and sad paradox. Then those extraordinary eyes twinkled, his usually very solemn face would break into a huge smile and he would chuckle. He had a look of Nelson Mandela... more