Early Days and Career Development

My first contact with school was at Chipstead Valley Primary School, Woodmansterne, Surrey in September 1953 (actually just before my 5th birthday). In mid-1956 the family moved to Wilhelmshaven in north-west Germany (in Lower Saxony – Nieder Sachsen) because my father’s civil service job meant that he had become ‘Quartermaster’ (responsible for ‘stores’ of all sorts) at Prince Rupert School (a British Forces school). I was a pupil at the Wilhelmshaven ‘British Forces’ primary school (only, I think, 18 pupils) for the 1956-1957 school year, taking my 11+ examination on my own in the headmistress’s office. For the first two years of my secondary schooling I was a day pupil at Prince Rupert School.

When the family moved back to the UK in 1956 I was fortunate to get a ‘county place’ at Kingston Grammar School, which was then a Direct Grant school (for boys only at that time). After taking ‘O’ level examinations in 1959 I was then in the Sixth Form for three years in all, taking my ‘A’ levels in 1961. The additional year in the Sixth Form was spent trying (unsuccessfully) to master Latin, and also to secure a university place, among other things.

In October 1962 I started studies for an undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield. I had been uncertain which subjects to take, but had settled on Economics, Economic History and Political Theory and Institutions for the first year, after which I focussed on Economics with Applied Economics for the second and third years.

At Kingston Grammar School (KGS) I had been active in setting up a United Nations Association youth group (with the help of Mr Woyda, a senior maths teacher who was an active member of the United Nations Association). This youth group had participation from Tiffin Girls’ School and Surbiton Grammar School – but I don’t remember whether there were any participants from Tiffin Boys’ School. My interest in international affairs (and the UN specifically) had been stimulated by events in the Congo around, and for some time after, independence in 1960. The activities of the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, including complicity in the suspected murder of the second UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, were an important catalyst.

It was during my time in Sheffield that I really developed my interest in international affairs, and in ‘development’ in particular. Soon after arriving at the university I joined the United Nations Student Association (UNSA), and at the first annual conference which I attended I was elected on to the national executive for 1962/63, then going on to be the national treasurer for 1963/64. I was also fortunate to attend the annual conference of the International Student Movement for the United Nations (in Geneva – ISMUN) in 1963 and to participant in another ISMUN meeting in Copenhagen. In Sheffield the UNSA branch hosted an UNSA Model United Nations in 1964. This all helped to develop my interest and involvement in international affairs. I was also very active in the Freedom from Hunger campaign in the university (we contributed £10,000 – I think half from the Students’ Union – to the Sheffield appeal for support of a Farmers’ Training Centre at Homa Bay in western Kenya), and in Amnesty International.

It was in Sheffield, in 1962, that I first met Janet Blackman. Janet had recently moved from an assistantship in Economic History in the University of Sheffield to a substantive lectureship in Economic and Social History in the University of Hull. She was extremely active at a high level in the UK United Nations Association right up until her death (still based in Hull) in late 2016, and she was a great influence on my thinking, and – indirectly – on my career. It was also in Sheffield that I first met Ian Livingstone, who was a major influence on my career, but in this case directly. Ian ran the Statistical Sources and Methods course in the second year of the Economics degree in Sheffield, and was then my Economic Theory tutor in the third year. Ian’s rigorous approach to economics meant that in theory tutorials it was constantly necessary to pay attention, to be ‘on one’s toes’, and to be well-prepared – excellent training for budding economists.

Ian Livingstone knew of my interest in international development, and had known Janet Blackman when she was on the university staff in Sheffield. Some way into the final year of my degree he suggested that I might be interested in joining the new Masters degree programme in African Studies at Makerere University College in Kampala, Uganda. I followed up his suggestion (see below). Ian, who sadly died at the early age of 68 in 2001, was going out to Uganda to be the Acting Head of the Department of Economics at Makerere – so to me this was an indication of the quality of people who would be in influential positions. Ian’s connection with Uganda included the facts that his first academic post was in Makerere’s Department of Economics, and that his wife, Grace, was (and still is) a Ugandan (as well as being British). Another factor influencing my decision to apply to join the Makerere Masters programme – and to persist with the seeking of funding – was that Walter Newlyn (a very highly respected economist who was a Professor in the University of Leeds) would be in a research post at Makerere over the period 1965-1967 and would be involved in teaching in the Masters programme. Henry Ord (University of Edinburgh) took the Economic Development course in the African Studies Masters programme in 1965-1966 for the first term, and Walter took the second term. Together Ian and Henry provided a Scottish connection which was to become relevant much later on.

After completing the final examinations in Sheffield I was able to secure a scholarship from the then Ministry of Overseas Development to take up a place in the two-year Masters degree at Makerere University College in Kampala, Uganda (which was then part of the University of East Africa) over the period mid-July 1965 to mid-July-1967. This Masters course (in the Rockefeller Foundation supported African Studies Programme) included coursework in the first year (with examinations) in East African Economic Development, in the Economics of Agricultural Development and in Social Development and a one-year dissertation (on The Economics of the Uganda Housing Market). In addition to support from Ian Livingstone for my application for scholarship funding the Director of the African Studies Programme (Merrick Posnansky) and the staff member of the British High Commission in Kampala who handled the funding were both influential in securing the scholarship for me. I was truly very fortunate.

After completing the full draft of my dissertation (somewhat later than intended) I joined the staff of the Department of Economics at Makerere University College (as it still was) as an Assistant Lecturer in August 1967, and was asked to take responsibility for the first year economics course – which had around 120 students. Ian Livingstone was still in the department as a Reader, but Rockefeller funded a new department head in the form of Bernard Okun (Brooklyn College) for the 1967-1968 academic year. I was not to submit my dissertation for assessment until the second half of 1968, and the MA degree was not awarded until 1969.

More to follow …