Peter Godwin has worn, and continues to wear, many hats. It is a wonder he finds the time, let alone the energy, to do justice to any one of his roles. In fact he excels at just about all of them. ‘Award-winning’ is the constant preface to his many titles: foreign correspondent, author, documentary maker, screenwriter human rights lawyer, lecturer, political commentator, activist, father and husband.
Godwin was born in Salisbury (Harare), Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1957 to an English mother and Polish Jewish father. His mother was a doctor whilst his father was an engineer. He writes of them, "They were both fairly remote figures to me".
He was a student at Salisbury's highly prestigious St George's College before studying Law at Cambridge University and International Relations at Oxford. His education was punctuated by a tour with the British South Africa Police, a hybrid unit charged with both military and police functions, in Matebeleland.
There’s no substitute for real curiosity and I think a lot of good journalism starts from that basis - Peter Godwin
He returned to the new Zimbabwe to complete his post-graduate thesis, and while he was there submitted handwritten articles to the Sunday Times. Among the stories he broke was the horrific Matabeleland massacres of 1983.
As a foreign and war correspondent he has reported from over 60 countries, including Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Somalia, Congo, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kashmir and South Africa. He served as East European correspondent and Diplomatic correspondent for the Sunday Times.
His own curiosity has led him to write about immensely diverse subjects for a wide array of publications including Vanity Fair, National Geographic, New York Times magazine, Time, Newsweek, The Observer and The Guardian.
He was a founding presenter, writer and chief correspondent for BBC television's flagship foreign affairs program, Assignment (now Correspondent), making documentaries all over the world. His film about the sex trade in Thailand, The Industry of Death, won the gold medal for investigative film at the New York Film Festival. He also wrote and co-presented the three-part Africa Unmasked series for Britain's Channel Four.
He is the author of five books:
'Rhodesians Never Die' - The Impact of war and Political Change on White Rhodesia c.1970 - 1980 (with Ian Hancock)
Wild at Heart: Man and Beast in Southern Africa (with photos by Chris Johns and foreword by Nelson Mandela)
Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa (George Orwell prize; Esquire/Apple/Waterstones award, 1996)
The Three of Us - a New Life in New York (with Joanna Coles, 2003)
When a Crocodile Eats the Sun (2006)
His new book, The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe, is released in October 2010.
Godwin now offers his extensive experience as a writer and international journalist to students: If you’re writing books, you become very misanthropic and completely de-socialized... Teaching is a very good antidote to that. He has been Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton and has taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College. He now teaches at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
He is married to Joanna Coles, the journalist and editor of US Marie Claire. They have two sons, Hugo and Thomas, whom he once described as ‘real fuckers… in every sense of the term’ (Bookslut.com). He has also called them ‘the greatest love of (my) life’ (Sheana Campbell 6 November 2006).
Peter Godwin moved to the US in 1997 and now lives in New York. He has no plans to move back to Zimbabwe.