Hickman, John (Kyrle) 1927-2001

views updated

HICKMAN, John (Kyrle) 1927-2001


Born July 3, 1927; died in 2001; son of J. B. and Joan Hickman; married Jennifer, 1986; children: two sons, one daughter. Education: Trinity Hall, Cambridge, (history). Hobbies and other interests: History and golf.


Diplomat. U.K. High Commission, Wellington, 1959-62; H.M. Diplomatic Service, joined 1965, posted to British Embassy, Madrid, Spain, 1966, Consul-General, Bilbao, Spain, 1967, Deputy High Commissioner, Singapore, 1969-71; ambassador to Ecuador, 1977-81, and Chile, 1982-87, alternate chairman, Belize Independence Conference, 1981; head of Southwest Pacific Department, 1971-74; counsellor in Dublin, Ireland, 1974-77; director, Anaconda (South America) Inc., 1988-2001. Military service: Royal Army, 45th Field Regiment, Commonwealth Brigade, 1948-50.


Anglo-Ecuadorian Society (chairman, 1988-91), Anglo-Chilean Society.


Gran Oficial, Order of Merit (Chile), 1992.


The Enchanted Islands: The Galapagos Discovered, Anthony Nelson (Oswestry), 1985.

News from the End of the Earth: A Portrait of Chile, St. Martin's Press (New York City), 1998.

Contributor of historical articles to periodicals.


A retired British diplomat who spent a great deal of his career in South America, John Hickman wrote two informative works about that part of the world. His The Enchanted Islands: The Galapagos Discovered, published in 1995, provides an overview of the mysterious Galapagos off the coast of Ecuador, where Hickman spent several years as British ambassador. Reviews of The Enchanted Islands, were generally positive. Douglas C. Spanner in British Book News called the book "fascinating and tastefully produced," and J. A. Steers in the Geographical Journal subbed it "readable, interesting and informative."

The nine islands of the Galapagos chain are all volcanic and had no aboriginal residents. Passing sailors first discovered the island's Chimu culture, which pre-dated the Inca era in Peru, and while Spanish and British sailors explored the islands, few stayed for any length of time, finding the land inhospitable. The Galapagos were made famous when Charles Darwin arrived there in the Beagle in 1835 to study the flora and fauna of the area.

The Enchanted Islands provides details about the flora and fauna that so fascinated Darwin, and at the same time outlines interesting historical facts about the islands. For example, Scotsman Alexander Selkirk, after spending four years marooned on Juan Fernandez Island in the Galapagos, became the model for Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe. Large areas of the islands, which have a permanent population of around 6,000, are now nature preserves.

As Chilean ambassador from Great Britain from 1982 to 1987, Hickman was in a good position to evaluate the recent history of Chile when he wrote News from the End of the Earth: A Portrait of Chile, published in 1998. Mark L. Grover in Library Journal called the book a "readable and well-written" introduction for those not familiar with the history of Chile. Although calling the book somewhat "Anglocentric," Grover valued the way Hickman brought his personal experience to bear on the story he tells. Kenneth Maxwell in Foreign Affairs deemed the book "succinct and balanced."

After many decades of stability, Chile was the scene of much upheaval beginning in the late 1960s. Marxist President Salvador Allende was overthrown by the forces of General Augusto Pinochet in 1973, after Allende's attempts at reform put the country into dire economic conditions. The Pinochet era was marked by civil rights abuses against many citizens, but also by a growing and healthy economy in Chile. When that economy began to decline in 1982, Pinochet was forced out. In News from the End of the Earth: A Portrait of Chile, Hickman's focus is largely on the Pinochet regime, noting that a number of American-trained economists helped the country to open its markets. He also discusses the role of Chile during the Falklands war and brings up the possibility that the Pinochet regime may have supplied intelligence information to Great Britain during that conflict. Hickman is no apologist for Pinochet, however; he also compliments the work of the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, established in 1990 to look into human rights abuses during Pinochet's reign.

News from the End of the Earth gained an unexpectedly large readership when its publication coincided with Pinochet's arrest in London for alleged crimes against Chilean citizens.



British Book News, July, 1985, p. 443.

Foreign Affairs, March, 1999, p. 150.

Geographical Journal, March, 1986, pp. 101-102.

Library Journal, November 15, 1998, p. 80.*

About this article

Hickman, John (Kyrle) 1927-2001

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article