Obituary: Professor Richard Hiscocks

David Childs
Tuesday 11 August 1998 00:02 BST

RICHARD HISCOCKS was one of the pre-war generation of young men who, after war service, went or remained in the public sector, before taking up posts at the new or provincial universities. Among them were Michael Balfour at East Anglia, Robert Cecil at Reading, A.J. Ryder at Lampeter and Hiscocks at Sussex. They were native Britons who were fascinated by Germany and Central Europe and attempted to analyse developments there in the post-war period.

Hiscocks was born in north London and attended Highgate School and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he read History. From there he went as an assistant master to Trinity College School, in the small community of Port Hope, on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. He remained in this rural community in Canada until he left for the sophistication, excitement and turmoil of Berlin in 1932.

Hiscocks got to Berlin University to do postgraduate studies at the very time it was being taken over by the Nazis. British students were more than welcome. Indeed, the Nazis hoped to persuade them of the achievements of the "National Socialist Revolution".

On his return from Germany in 1936 he took up a post at Bradfield College, Berkshire, followed by a year at Marlborough (1939-40). Hiscocks spent the Second World War with the Royal Marines, achieving the rank of lieutenant- colonel. He took part in the evacuation of Crete and went on to serve in the Far East.

His knowledge of German and the Germans was appreciated by the British Military Government in Germany which was desperately short of German-speakers and administrators. Hiscocks was installed as Governor of Dannenberg near Luneburg, northern Germany, in 1945. The town's population had swollen from 41,176 in 1939 to nearly 69,000 by the end of the war. There were thousands of evacuees and refugees who needed accommodating. This was his major problem. Deciding who to trust and who not to trust was at least as important.

Hiscocks next challenge was as British Council representative in occupied Austria, 1946-49. It was the world of The Third Man, of black-marketeers, agents, opportunists, refugees and Cold War intrigue. Austria was officially a victim of the Nazis but it was under Four-Power occupation. The British Council had a political role as well as a cultural one. Of course it was promoting British culture, revealing to a nation cut off from outside influences what had been going on in Britain since Austria had become part of Hitler's Reich in 1938. But, just as important, the council was competing with the Soviets for the hearts and minds of the Austrians. It is usually credited with having done a good job, with nothing like the resources of the Americans.

Hiscocks had another British Council assignment in South India, 1949- 50, before taking up an academic career. In 1950 he was appointed Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. He remained there until 1964.

It was during this period that he completed his The Rebirth of Austria (1953), Democracy in Western Germany (1957) and Poland: bridge for the abyss? (1963). The second of these volumes was probably the best known. He presented an optimistic picture at a time when there were still, quite understandably, many doubters. His books were readably free of the jargon that often bedevils academic works. In Canada he also cultivated his interest in art and served as President of Winnipeg Art Gallery from 1959 to 1960.

Hiscocks returned to Britain in 1964 to join Sussex University as Professor of International Relations. Founded in 1961 at Brighton, Sussex, was the first of the new 1960s universities. Hiscocks used his considerable contacts in London and around the world to promote his field and the university. During this final period of his career his Germany Revived (1966), which was based on his earlier work, appeared.

He was a visiting Fellow at Princeton University in 1970-71 and a Fellow of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs, Chicago, in 1971-72. These fellowships enabled him to write The Security Council: a study in adolescence published in 1973. This last work reflected his long support for the United Nations. He had served as a UK member of the UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, and was for many years Vice-President of the United Nations Association.

In retirement Hiscocks kept up his strong interest in music, being an enthusiastic concert goer. He also listed gardening among his recreations. This he pursued at his home in Hunworth in Norfolk.

Charles Richard Hiscocks, political scientist: born London 1 June 1907; Professor of Political Science and International Relations, University of Manitoba 1950-64; Professor of International Relations, Sussex University 1964-72 (Emeritus); died 2 July 1998.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in