MA, DPhil (Oxford), PhD, LittD (Cambridge), FAHA, FRHistS
(Deceased), 2015-12-02
History, Heritage And Archaeology

Professor Donald Anthony Low, founding Dean of the School of African and Asian Studies (AFRAS) at Sussex, died in Canberra on 12 February, aged 87.

Professor Low, known as Anthony, was a historian of modern South Asia, Africa, the British Commonwealth and decolonization.

After his time at Sussex from 1964-73, Professor Low served successively as Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra and as President of Clare Hall, Cambridge.

Born in India in 1927 and educated at Oxford University, he began his academic career in 1951 as a lecturer at Makerere College, University of East Africa. His DPhil on ‘The British and Uganda 1862-1900’ was awarded in 1957. He was also Uganda correspondent for The Times newspaper.

He moved from Uganda to the ANU in 1959, staying until 1964 when he became Professor of History at Sussex and founding Dean of AFRAS.

Fellow historian Lord (Asa) Briggs, the first Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Sussex in the early 1960s, recalled the appointment in a book published in 1986 to celebrate the University’s silver jubilee.

He wrote: 'I was fortunate enough to be able to attract Anthony Low as first Dean. I had met him in Australia in 1960 when I was a considering at a proper distance and in relative quiet what the Sussex ‘map of learning’ – my favourite metaphor - would be. I gave what to me was a significant lecture there with this title, and I was deeply impressed by Low’s knowledge both of Africa and Asia.'

'We of the West are the human minority, and a shrinking minority at that,' Professor Low asserted in the same publication, predicting that at the beginning of the 20th century only about 5 per cent of the world’s population would be living in western Europe (compared to 20 per cent at the start of the 19th century).

He also observed in the same chapter that 'by the time the University of Sussex came into being in 1961, not only had virtually all of Asia become independent, but half of Africa too'.

Professor Low left Sussex in 1973 to return to Australia, and was Vice-Chancellor of the ANU from 1975-82.

From 1983-94 he was Smuts Professor of the History of the British Commonwealth at the University of Cambridge and from 1987–94 served as President of Clare Hall, Cambridge.

Professor Low supervised a whole generation of historians to whom he lovingly referred as his 'band of sepoys' (a term for indigenous soldiers, e.g. Indian soldiers serving under British command in India).

In retirement in Australia, he continued to be active in research and his final book - The Fabrication of Empire: The British and Uganda kingdoms, 1890-1902 - was published in 2009 when he was over 80.

University of Sussex

  • Low, D A. Editor and Contributor (2004) Congress and the Raj: Facets of the Indian Struggle 1917 - 1947, pp 513 Second Edition. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Low, D A (2002) Pakistan and India: Political Legacies from the Colonial Past, South Asia, XXV, 2, August 2002, pp 257 - 72.
  • Low, D A (2001) Keith Hancock: The Legacies of an Historian. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
  • Low, D A (1997) Britain and Indian Nationalism: The Imprint of Ambiguity, 1929 - 1942, pp 358. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Low, D A (1996) The Egalitarian Moment: Asia and Africa 1950 - 1980, pp 131. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.