In memoriam: Malcolm Deas (1941-2023)


The Department is saddened to learn that Emeritus Fellow of Latin American Politics, Malcolm Deas, passed away on 29 July at the age of 82.

Malcolm Deas graduated from New College with a First in modern History in 1962, afterwards becoming a Fellow of All Souls College from 1962 to 1966. He was a Fellow of St Antony's College and University Lecturer in the Government and Politics of Latin America from 1966 until his retirement in 2008.

Malcolm Deas played an active part in the University of Oxford’s move to develop a centre of expertise in Latin America studies. He was one of the original staff of the Latin American Centre, founded at that time by Sir Raymond Carr, at St Antony’s College. On several occasions, Malcolm was Director of the Latin American Centre. In addition, Since Malcolm managed the Andres Bello Visiting Fellowship, which brought mid-career scholars working in Latin American studies to the University year-on-year.

During his nearly 50-year-long Oxford career, Malcolm took a particular interest in building up the University's Latin American collections, in the Bodleian Library and in the Centre. These collections, which include the Codex Mendoza (an Aztec scripture detailing historic rulers’ conquests, translated into Spanish), have great historical depth and are among the largest in Europe.

His own research chiefly focussed on the nineteenth and twentieth century history of Colombia, where he first spent two years in 1964 and 1965, and frequently visited throughout his life. He wrote on diverse themes; from caciquismo (local chief ruling systems), and the interaction of local and national politics; to the history of taxation, civil wars, coffee; and much more. Over his lifetime he contributed to The New Statesman, The Listener, The Spectator, The London Review of Books and The Times, for which last he wrote the leaders on Latin America for five years from the end of the Falklands War. He also gave evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on the origins of the dispute.

From 1990 to 1994 he was an advisor in Colombia to President Csar Gavirias Consejera de Seguridad y Defensa, and worked to design policies to reduce Colombia's high levels of violence. For this he was awarded Colombia’s highest honour, the Cruz de Boyacá, as well as an OBE from the Queen. He was also made a member  of the Order of Andrés Bello (Venezuela) and the Orden de Mérito (Ecuador), as well as receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the Universidad de los AndesBogotá. Just last year, he also received an Honorary Doctorate from the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla (Colombia) and was elected a member of the Venezuelan Academy of History.

Malcolm was instrumental in the development of the Latin American Centre as we know it today. He maintained close links with the Centre after his retirement. He is a great loss to the LAC and to scholarly community working on Latin America. He will be badly missed.