Richard Bourne’s latest publication ‘Catastrophe: What went wrong in Zimbabwe?’ investigates the causes of Zimbabwe’s ongoing crisis

Monday 17 October 2011

In this book, Richard Bourne reveals how Zimbabwe, a country that had every prospect of success when it achieved independence in 1980 from British colonial rule, had within thirty years become a brutal police state suffering from hyperinflation, collapsing life expectancy, and abandonment by a third of its citizens.

Catastrophe provides a comprehensive account of the history of Zimbabwe, from British conquest and subsequent events leading up to the present precarious political situation. Richard Bourne's analysis reveals that Zimbabwe’s tragedy is not simply the result of Mugabe’s ‘evil’ but also about history, Africa today, and the world’s attitude towards it.

Professor Stephen Chan, author of Robert Mugabe: A life of power and violence, says: “In the plethora of one-sided and ill-informed works on Zimbabwe, Richard Bourne's new book stands out as deeply-thought, highly-detailed, judicious and balanced. Bourne's capacity to weigh evidence and to arrive at sober and sobering judgements is superb. There will not be a better account of Zimbabwe for some time to come”.

Catastrophe: What went wrong in Zimbabwe? will be launched on 8 September 2011 at the Royal Commonwealth Society on Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5AP. Richard Bourne is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Notes for editors

1.   Media interested in attending the launch, or requiring further information and requests for interview with the author please contact Dee Burn at the School of Advanced Study, University of London at / +44(0) 20 7862 8670 / 07900 401 240. To view further particulars about the book please visit:

2.   Richard Bourne is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, and a former journalist. In 1998 he founded the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit and before that, in 1990, was the first director of the non-governmental Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. He has written and edited ten books and numerous reports, including a biography of President Lula of Brazil (2008) and a collection of essays in honour of the 80th birthday of Shridath Ramphal (2008). As a journalist he was education correspondent of The Guardian and deputy editor of the London Evening Standard.

3.   The Institute of Commonwealth Studies, founded in 1949, is the only postgraduate academic institution in the United Kingdom devoted to the study of the Commonwealth.  It is also home to the longest-running interdisciplinary and practice-oriented human rights MA programme in the UK. The Institute is a national and international centre of excellence for policy-relevant research, research facilitation and teaching.  As a member of the School of Advanced Study, established in 1994, the Institute works with nine other prestigious postgraduate research institutes to offer academic opportunities across and between a wide range of subject fields in the humanities and social sciences.

The School of Advanced Study at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the facilitation and promotion of research in the humanities and social sciences. The School brings together the specialised scholarship and resources of ten prestigious research institutes to offer academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Germanic & Romance Studies, Historical Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, Study of the Americas, and the Warburg Institute.