Sir Philip Sherlock, 98, historian
BY DON BOHNING
Sir Philip Sherlock, a giant among contemporary Caribbean historians
educators, died of natural causes at his home in Jamaica Monday. He was 98.
``Philip Sherlock was among the greatest West Indians of the 20th
Sir Shridath Ramphal, chancellor of the University of the West Indies, an
institution Sherlock helped found in the late 1940s and where he later served as
vice chancellor. ``May the 21st see his like again.''
Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson described Sherlock as a
scholar and educator'' who made an indelible contribution ``to human
Bruce Golding, leader of an opposition political party, called
Sherlock ``one of the
greatest Jamaicans of all time.''
``He was a gentleman and a visionary with a sense of the Caribbean
for his time,'' said Anthony Maingot, Trinidadian-born professor of sociology at
Florida International University, who coauthored later editions of A Short History of
the West Indies with Sir Philip, as he was universally called by those who knew
First written with the late British Professor John Parry, the
book was considered a
seminal work, looking at the history of the region from a Caribbean perspective.
``He was a historian but mostly he was a folklorist with his great
understanding of West Indian folk, the common people and their common sense,''
That folkloric quality was reflected in the titles of many of
the 15 books he wrote
or coauthored, including Ears and Tails and Common Sense: More Stories From
the Caribbean and Anansi, The Spider Man.
WEST INDIAN UNITY
Born Feb. 25, 1902, the son of a Methodist minister and his wife,
Sherlock was a
Jamaican by birth but a Caribbean man by choice who, says Maingot, ``spent
many years promoting the idea of West Indian unity.''
Sherlock graduated from the University of London in 1927 with
a first-class honors
degree in English and literature. He later served on Jamaica's preindependence
In the late 1940s, he was a member of the committee that recommended
establishment of the University College of the West Indies, which was attached to
the University of London, serving as its principal and later as vice chancellor when
it became the University of the West Indies.
SOUTH FLORIDA TIES
After ``retiring'' in the late 1960s, Sherlock spent several years
in South Florida as
the first secretary-general of the Association of Caribbean Universities and
Research Institutes, which he had founded in 1968 with other Caribbean university
heads, among them Henry King Stanford, former president of the University of
In January 1971, he gave the midterm commencement address at the
of Miami after which he was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree.
He later returned to Jamaica where he continued his prolific writing.
coauthored The Story of the Jamaican People in 1998 and at his death was
working on another book with his daughter, Hilary, about life in Jamaica.
``Up to the end he was working,'' his wife, Lady Grace Sherlock,
his wife of 58
years, told the Observer newspaper. ``Maybe Hilary will finish the book.''
He also is survived by two sons, John and Christopher.