David Henry Harrison, 2nd February 1941 - 6th April 2021

[David Harrison in Fiji] David Harrison in Fiji

David Harrison was appointed to a lectureship in Sociology in the School of African and Asian Studies in 1976. He came late to academia. Leaving school at 16, he first worked in a bank and as a customs officer before training to be a teacher. Later, he enrolled for a sociology degree at Goldsmiths, before completing a PhD at UCL based on fieldwork in the Caribbean. He was 35 when he was appointed at Sussex, his first academic job.

He taught at the University for more than twenty years. He had a strong interest in 'Third World' societies and in 1988 published The Sociology of Modernization and Development, a major work reviewing the often-tendentious academic debates at that time about why poorer countries fail to develop, and the best way to grow their economies.

Both a guide for students (it was very clearly written) and a contribution to the literature in its own right, the book critically evaluated 'modernization theories' (basically, every country has to go through similar stages of development) and Marxist-inspired 'underdevelopment theories' (participating in the global capitalist system is what keeps poorer countries poor) and concluded that they were not as incompatible as their adherents supposed. It was possible to find common ground; theorists needed to come out of their silos.

This rejection of extremes, and a desire to ground theories in evidence, was characteristic of all David's work. He was an inspired teacher of undergraduates (his courses were always over-subscribed), and he supervised many doctoral students during his time at Sussex - people who went on to academic careers of their own and who still hold David in the highest regard. He was also a diligent and committed colleague, someone who happily took on thankless tasks which others sought to avoid.

[On Richmond Hill
overlooking the Thames] On Richmond Hill overlooking the Thames

After leaving Sussex, David built an international reputation in tourism studies, first as Professor of Tourism at London Metropolitan, and later heading the Tourism programme at the University of the South Pacific. He also held positions at King's College and Surrey and Middlesex Universities. He always felt that his contributions at Sussex had not been fully recognised, but he more-than made up for that in the glittering career that followed.

He died in London, aged 80.

Peter Saunders


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