Aidan Hartley

Aidan Hartley

Personal information

Aidan Hartley is a Kenyan journalist, author and former war correspondent. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, he moved to England at a young age where he completed his educational career, taking English at Balliol College, Oxford University. Much of his and his three siblings’ life was spent with his mother while his father travelled for long periods of time. Aidan accompanied his father sometimes on his travels on the African continent. Dividing his life between his farm in Laikipia and Kenya’s north coast, Hartley delegates much of his time between livestock farming, surfing and playing an integral role in local environmental issues.


Hartley attended Ravenswood School, a boarding school in Devon, England from the age of 7 to 12 years old. Hartley went on to read for an English degree at Balliol College, Oxford University.Here he was the editor for the satirical magazine, Tributary, together with playwright Lloyd Evans, Toby Young (the author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People that was later made into a movie) and Boris Johnson who is currently the Mayor of London. In 1987 Aidan Hartley contributed a chapter to the book The Oxford Myth by Weidenfeld & Nicholson, published in 1988. At Oxford he graduated with a degree in Area Studies. After having attended Oxford he went on to complete a degree in African Politics at the School of African Studies in London where he obtained his Masters.

Career information

After leaving Reuters, Hartley worked as an analyst for the International Crisis Group, centred on conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central Africa from 2001 to 2002. Between 2001 and 2005, he involved himself in livestock farming and developing his farm in Laikipia, Kenya. In 2005, Hartley produced and reported a number of documentaries for the UK’s Channel 4 under the Dispatches series. These include Warlords Next Door (May 2008) and Bankrolling Mugabe (2009) that exposed underhanded activity and war-thirsty despots on the continent. A majority of his work is spent on reporting for Unreported World, an award-winning series for which he has made 14 documentaries since 2005. From then on Hartley covered some notable wars in the DRC and in Mogadishu, some of the many instances that put his and his camera man’s life at serious risk and all caught on camera. Some of his noted documentaries include:
  • Somalia: Al Qaeda’s New Haven (2005)
  • Kenya: Democracy in the Dumps (2006)
  • Mongolia: Ninja nation (2007)
  • Abkhazia: Valley of the Lost (2008)
  • Haiti: the Island that Ate itself (2009)
  • Somalia: Hearts, minds and Holy War (2006)
  • Two BBC 4 Radio series

Recognitions and awards

His first novel, The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson BBC 4 Non-Fiction Prize, the world’s most revered literary award. It was also nominated for the Duff Cooper Prize and is in the process of being converted into a film.

Other professional activities

UK director David MacKenzie is in the process of developing Hartley’s international bestseller, The Zanzibar Chest (2003) into a film. MacKenzie is known for directing films such as Young Adam (2003) and Hallam Foe (2007). His third book to be published is expected to be released some time in 2010. One of Hartley’s current projects is a biography and film documentary of the late combat cameraman Carlos Mavrolean, who was a personal friend of Hartley’s. Mavrolean was a war correspondence journalist who died of a heroin overdose while covering a story in Peshawar, Afghanistan. Hartley currently writes a column for UK magazine The Spectator entitled “Wild Life”. He also regularly writes for other publications in the UK and the USA.


Primary Sources

Aidan Hartley (via e-mail interview from 16th October 2009 to 19th October 2009)

Secondary Sources

1. Hartley, A. The Zanzibar Chest: A Memoir of Love and War. London: Harper Collins. 2003.

2. International Crisis Group. Retrieved 16th October 2009 from

3. Dispatches series. Retrieved 16th October 2009 from

4. Unreported World. Retrieved 16th 2009 October from
ported -world

5. Director David MacKenzie. Retieved on 16th October 2009 from

6. MacKenzie, David. Young Adam, film. Retrieved 16th October 2009 from

7. MacKenzie, David. Hallam Foe, film. Retrieved 16th October 2009 from

8. Burke, J. 2000. Carlos Mavroleon. the Observer Online. Retrieved 16th October 2009 from

9. The Spectator Magazine Online. Retrieved 16th )ctober 2009 from

10. Picture: Retrieved on 19th October 2009 from http//:
/8/B77A0F re

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