Philips, Cyril Henry 1912–2005

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Philips, Cyril Henry 1912–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born December 27, 1912, in Worcester, England; died December 29, 2005, in Swanage, Dorset, England. College administrator, government official, historian, and author. A former vice chancellor of London University, Philips was instrumental in helping to expand the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and later helped establish government standards for commission work as head of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. Growing up in India, where his father had brought the family from England, he developed an early interest in the country as a child. Before the onset of World War II, he completed an M.A. at the University of Liverpool and a Ph.D. at the University of London, where he studied Indian history and wrote his dissertation on the East India Company. Philips then joined the university's faculty as a lecturer at the SOAS. Philips' skills as an administrator came out during his military service. He received training at the Army School of Education, and he used this knowledge at the War Office and Ministry of Education. Also serving as commandant of the School of Education in England, he left the army as a lieutenant colonel in 1946. Returning to SOAS as chair of Oriental history, he published India (1949) and The Correspondence of David Scott: Relating to Indian Affairs, 1787–1805 (1951). However, Philips soon had less time to write historical texts as he began to focus more on mentoring and editing the works of other historians. He edited several volumes about Asia and in 1957 was named director of SOAS, a position he held until 1976. During this time, he grew attendance at SOAS threefold and expanded the curriculum to include courses on modern Asian societies. As deputy-vice chancellor from 1969 to 1970 and vice chancellor of the university from 1972 to 1976, he also impacted the University of London, where he was on a committee that worked to create more central control of the school while simultaneously giving students, graduates, and teachers a greater role as well. Philips retired from the university in 1980, but during his last two years there he also made time to chair the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. Here he gathered extensive research for the commission and created guidelines for broadening some police powers while also adding safeguards for privacy rights. From 1980 to 1985 he served on the Police Complaints Board. Knighted for his work in 1974, Philips was the author of such publications as The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1917–1967: An Introduction (1967) and Indian Society and the Beginnings of Modernisation, circa 1830–1850 (1976).



Philips, Cyril, Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Autobiography of Sir Cyril Philips, Radcliffe Press (New York, NY), 1995.


Guardian (London, England), February 2, 2006, p. 36.

Independent (London, England), January 19, 2006, p. 58.

Times (London, England), January 9, 2006, p. 45.