Obituary: Saul Rose
Thursday 09 July 1992
TO A QUITE exceptional degree Saul Rose combined the character of a very private man with a record of unstinting service to the public institutions with which he was associated, in particular, to the Oxford college of his undergraduate years, New College.
From a modest East London background and the City of London school, he came up to New College in Michaelmas Term 1940 to read Classics. He took a First in Honour Moderations in 1942, after which military service interrupted his academic career. The fortunes of war took him to the East, specifically to India and Malaysia, where he served for four years with the Army Intelligence Corps, acquiring an interest in the people and politics of the region that remained with him for the rest of his life.
He returned to post-war Oxford to complete his interrupted studies, though now not in Classical but in Modern Greats, and to continue postgraduate research leading to his doctorate. In 1949 he was appointed to a lectureship in International Relations at Aberdeen University, where he served until 1952. At this stage, however, a supplementary interest intervened which led him to interrupt his academic career by serving for three years as International Secretary of the Labour Party at Transport House.
Meanwhile Oxford's new focal centre for International Studies was developing at St Antony's College and in 1955 Rose returned to Oxford from his Labour Party post to assume the dual role of Leverhulme research fellow there and Lecturer in Politics at Trinity College.
Initially his special interest lay in the fast-changing politics of South-East Asia, where his wartime experience, coupled with his very considerable linguistic capacities, equipped him to play a major role in the development of St Antony's research activities. His own contribution to the post-war St Antony's series Britain in the World Today was devoted to Britain and South-East Asia. It took the form of a conspicuously illuminating and perspicacious analysis of the fast-changing role of Britain in a territory of our traditional ascendancy. This was followed by two other path-breaking pieces of research, Socialism in Southern Asia (1958) and Politics in Southern Asia (1963). Both were translated into Japanese and were not without some influence in political circles there.
Along with these Far Eastern interests went a lively academic involvement in the politics of post-war France, which found expression in an illuminating volume on French electoral politics.
However, although in this and other ways Rose demonstrated his command of the international relations field, the centre of his interest was slowly shifting from the purely academic to the administrative. Thus, when in 1963 the post of Bursar at New College fell vacant, it came as no surprise that Rose was an interested candidate and one that the college was happy to appoint, especially as he was able to combine his administrative duties with some teaching in his special field. So began a renewed association with the college of his youth that extended for over a quarter of a century.
His was no routine bursarial administration. Every facet of the college's administration and finances came under fresh and overdue scrutiny. Nothing was too small to escape Rose's penetrating eye. In good years, no less than in bad ones, he was a resolute enemy of anything that he regarded as extravagant or wasteful. Bursars who say 'no' have to be prepared for criticism; Rose was prepared for criticism and did not often give way before it. His critics often contended that he saw his custodianship of the college finances in terms too narrowly economical, too little expansionist. He was content to point to a sustained balance in the college accounts at a period of increasing numbers and expanding activities, and to the college's ability at the end of his time to cope with whatever financial exigencies might threaten it.
It was characteristic of the assiduity which he displayed in the discharge of his collegiate duties that when retirement approached the college owed him a year of sabbatical leave which he had neglected to take. Typically in 1988- 89 he accepted a year's appointment as research fellow, before, in 1989 becoming Emeritus. Sadly his enjoyment of retirement was brief.
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