December 30, 2003 by

Alan Davidson

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Categories: Politicians, Writers/Editors

Alan Eaton Davidson, a career diplomat and best-selling author, died on Dec. 2. Cause of death was not released. He was 79.
Davidson was studying at Queen’s College in Oxford when his academic career was interrupted by World War II. From 1943 to 1946, he fought with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the Pacific, the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean. He joined Britain’s Foreign Office in 1948 and was given diplomatic posts in Washington D.C., The Hague, Cairo, Tunis and Brussels. In 1973, he served as the British ambassador to Laos.
In 1963, Davidson combined his love of writing and seafood when he self-published the book, “Seafish of Tunisia and the Central Mediterranean.” It was reviewed by Spectator writer Elizabeth David, who then contacted the author and introduced him to Jill Norman, her editor at Penguin. This connection lead to the publication of several successful food-related books, including “Mediterranean Seafood,” “Seafood of South East Asia” and “North Atlantic Seafood.”
In 1979, Davidson founded the publishing company, Prospect Books, and began editing the journal, Petits Propos Culinaires. He is best known for writing the 900-page book, “The Oxford Companion to Food.” Last month, he received the Dutch government’s Erasmus Prize for his contribution to European cultural life.

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