I was born in war-time London. My father and mother worked for the BBC but during the war my father was an RAF pilot and he was killed soon after my birth. My childhood was largely spent in and around London where I was also educated. In 1964 I began my research career at the School of Oriental and African Studies where I worked under the pioneer historian of Africa, Roland Oliver. SOAS appointed me to teach in its history department in 1969. I was to work there until early retirement in 2003. During that time I served as Chairman of the University of London's Centre for African Studies and as SOAS' Dean of Postgraduate Studies and was promoted to a chair in modern African history in 1994. London life was episodically interrupted by a series of long research trips to Ghana which I had become excited by as an exchange student in the University of Ghana, Legon in 1963. And a variety of fellowships took me for long attachments to universities in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Harvard and Princeton as well as for shorter periods to Bordeaux, Lesotho and Toronto. I have been married to the writer Frances Thomas for many years and since I retired we have divided our time between London and rural mid-Wales. That is reflected in my current appointments as Emeritus professor and professorial research associate at SOAS and as honorary professor in history at Aberystwyth University. I have served on the Council of the Royal Historical Society, most recently as one of its vice-presidents. Much of my leisure time is spent enjoying music and trying to make music as a choral singer (a growly second bass).
For more on Richard Rathbone, see the interview with him on the University of Cambridge website.