David Astor

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David Astor (1912-2001) wiki Editor of The Observer (1948-1975).

Anthony Sampson writes: "I had first known about David Astor when I was in Johannesburg, editing the black magazine Drum which had attracted his interest as a champion of African rights. When I came back to London in 1955 David asked me to lunch at his house, overlooking Lord's cricket ground, with a Henry Moore in the garden. At 43, he still looked boyish, with his questioning eyes, a thatch of hair and diffident mumbles. I was a gauche 29-year-old, but he was immediately disarming: he questioned me about Drum as if the pop mag was as important as his newspaper, and asked me how to improve The Observer . Halfway through lunch he murmured that he needed some kind of organiser, and perhaps I could join the paper as an 'assistant to the editor'. I said yes before he could find out how little I really knew...

"The Astors at that time were regarded almost like royalty. David's father, the second Viscount Astor, had been one of the richest men in the world, inheriting a fortune made in fur-trading and multiplied by investments in Manhattan real estate. His mother, Nancy, was the first woman MP, the dominating hostess of Cliveden. And David was part of an extended cousinhood who moved in the heart of the transatlantic power-world...

"Many institutions that appeared to have emerged autonomously, such Index on Censorship, the Butler Trust for prison warders, or the Minority Rights Group, were the fruits of David's seed..." [1]

According to Richard Crockett, Astor was "helpful in involving the Aga Khan in setting up a paper called the Daily Nation in Kenya during the late 1950s, to give a voice to the minority communities in the country; but in this case he acted as an adviser rather than an investor." Later he adds that Astor served as "the instigator of an interesting educational exercise called the South African Advanced Education Project (SAAEP), set up in 1987 in conjunction with Anthony Sampson and Oliver Tambo of the ANC, and funded by the Rockefeller Trust, Ford Foundation and Shell. The purpose of SAAEP was to try to remedy the lack of an educated, post-independence African middle class by funding South African blacks to come to England to attend business and economics courses, including some at the London Business School." [2]

In 1956 Astor and his paper supported the cause of rebel leader, A. Z. Phizo. This activism was supported by Michael Scott. [3]

His brother is John Jacob Astor, and his daughter is Alice Astor. David's eldest son is Richard Astor.



  • Richard Cockett, David Astor and The Observer (Andre Deutsch, 1990).
  • Jeremy Lewis is writing Astor's biography for Jonathan Cape


Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Observing David Astor, guardian.co.uk, accessed December 12, 2011.
  2. Richard Cockett, David Astor and The Observer (Andre Deutsch, 1990), p.195, p.199.
  3. Ramachandra Guha, India After Gandhi (Pan Macmillan, 2007), p.322.
  4. wholeorganicplus David Fleming, organizational web page, accessed April 13, 2012.
  5. Asylum Aid History, organizational web page, accessed April 13, 2012.
  6. Koestler Trust Staff, organizational web page, accessed May 2, 2012.