skip to primary navigationskip to content

Memories of Geoff Hawthorn

I would like to convey my heartfelt condolences and express the great sadness I felt hearing that Geoffrey Hawthorn passed away.

I owe much to Geoffrey. Like many of his students, I received invaluable help for my next career step. I was an undergraduate reading SPS at Churchill College from 1989 to 1992 and Geoffrey Hawthorn was my supervisor. Towards the end, shortly before the final exams, he expressed interest in my plans for the future and suggested I apply to the Government Department at Harvard where he had been a visiting Professor.
Geoffrey wrote a letter of recommendation which must have carried weight and I was admitted to the programme at Harvard in 1993.

I am aware that I owe Geoffrey more than I can imagine - and that I would not be the person I am today without his support and generosity.

Antje Clasen

Geoff was an inspiration - as a person, an academic and a professional. His insights on Asia were way ahead of their time, his counsel at tutorials pointed yet gentle. And my penchant for wearing white shirts and jeans (though I could only recently afford Versace!) has been one of the many impressions he had on me.

Unmish Parthasarathi


One could almost say that Geoff Hawthorne was my salvation.  With a poor third in my part I Natural Sciences, and barely avoiding being sent down, the new SPS part II offered me the hope of a course of study that might grip my imagination better.  But, as I later found out, Churchill were not sanguine about my chances and I was wary of another failure.  In my first supervision with Geoff (as my Director of Studies he had assigned me to himself), I got an intelligently planned rocket boost into my new field of study.

Geoff set me to write an essay “In what way could theories in the social sciences be said to resemble theories in the natural sciences?”, with a list of reading as long as your arm, headed by Nagel.  This might have been his very first assignment in Cambridge – it was certainly in his first week in his new posting.  It was an assignment perfectly aimed to unlock my imagination.  The very idea that theory in science was a subject for questioning was new to me – I had shone in High School science by understanding and learning the theories in the books.  It had never occurred to me to question their status as theories.

A week in the UL discovering more and more new things to wonder at in the volumes of philosophy of science Geoff had directed me to.  Then a 20 page essay – my first ever piece of discursive writing on science or anything like philosophy – discussing what the occupants of a visiting spacecraft might make of the behaviour of tin boxes that stop in an orderly way at red lights and go at green lights.  The experience of summarising, defending and discussing this speculation with Geoff and A N Other (mostly Geoff, on this occasion) was the delirious conclusion of a spectacular week.  I was hooked.  Not just on Social Science, but on thinking.

Another spectacular Hawthorne supervision sticks in my mind.  I – the privileged boy from St Paul’s – was set to write an essay on “Why do working class children do so poorly in English schools?”  My friend Terry, alumnus of a poor secondary modern in South London, later dragged up by the trades union movement and Ruskin College, was set to write on “Why do middle class children do so well in English schools?”.  Terry and I had no difficulty in arguing, long and loudly and with no holds barred.  Geoff just kept the ring on this occasion.

The Guardian obituary (17/1/2016) of Geoff calls him “a hugely admired teacher across an astonishing range of subjects”.  I would endorse that.

Bob Phillips

Geoff was a central figure in my time at Cambridge over 20 years ago now. I feel that in many ways he taught me to think - think about the world, think critically about ideas, think with humility about the limits of thought. Lectures and supervisions with Geoff were the single biggest highlight of my entire time at Cambridge. He was brilliant, engaging, challenging and yet constantly approachable and almost endlessly generous with his time and support. I'm very sorry indeed his journey is over, but so grateful that I had the good fortune to find him at that time of my life.

Simon Morris


Supervisions with Geoff were predictably wonderful each time. He spent precisely half the time listening, giving whatever you had written his total attention and curiosity. He would ask some questions and probe your thinking, all the while making you feel like your ideas were intensely interesting and clever (whatever the likely truth of that.....). And then for the second half he'd take you on a wonderful wandering journey through all the ideas and stories which would help enrich your topic, give you a lead to the next idea, or push you into the next direction. I left the room each time feeling like I had done great work but that I was about to make it much better - as a teacher now myself, I know even better what an incredible achievement that is and how lucky I was to have those wonderful learning experiences.

Catriona Maclay


Geoff Hawthorn was a kind and gracious colleague, who guided me through the academic corridors of Cambridge as I got the Global Security Fellows Initiative (GSFI) underway in 1993-1994. He always had time for our international Fellows (54 of them!) and for consultations with me and my staff regarding them. He made SPS a very successful and welcoming "home" to all of us and our diverse intellectual pursuits.

Prof. Jack Shepherd

I had the privilege to interact with Professor Hawthorn both during his lectures on political conflict, and as he supervised my MPhil thesis on ethics. Through him and thanks to him, I engaged with topics that he endeavoured to make not only interesting, but relevant to my specific areas on interest. I left lectures and tutorials feeling not just that I have enhanced my understanding of the world, but that through this I was closer to a complete picture of what I wanted to say. This was helped by his ability to be genuinely interested in the musings of naive 20-year olds, and to allow us all to feel like we contributed to the discussion. I remember many of us feeling this way, which makes it even more remarkable.

What I am most personally grateful for, however, is his calm and supportive guidance through a confused and difficult final year, when I came to the crushing realisation that academic research was not the right future for me. I suspect he arrived at that conclusion long before I did, but his support and appreciation for my early thesis attempts were unwavering, and his kind words in the aftermath provided a sense of perspective, relief and reward that I was not inclined to feel on my own. Given his nature, he would probably take none of the credit for this, but I doubt I would have come to look back so fondly on that time and forward to the terrifying "real life"ahead without him.

Ionut Lazar

Geoff was an important person in my life, not just as a supervisor, but as a teacher and later friend. As a student, he provided enormous encouragement throughout my university years, always encouraging me never to give up and allowing me to develop my ideas and critical thinking. He transmitted me passion and love for his subjects but also I will never forget his kindness and genuine interest in other people's ideas and opinions. The most important lesson I have learnt from him is the importance of finding the courage to be true to oneself, listening to my own voice, as the only key to be free. For that, and much more, I shall always treasure the memory of Geoff.

Ginerva Cucinotta

I studied SPS at Cambridge graduating in 1973 and Geoffrey Hawthorn tutored me for a course in Demography and another in Revolutions. His enthusiasm for ideas was a great pleasure combined with his friendliness and innate egalitarianism. It was very much a case of working together to try ideas out, turn them round and examine whether they stood up and he welcomed even this rather incoherent student to join in the endeavour. He combined intellectual rigour with a very down to earth sense of humanity. I left Cambridge impatient to go to work but his tutorials remained in my mind as a vindication of the academic life to which I returned in 2011. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to know this fascinating man.

Susan Carstairs

I will forever be indebted to Geoffrey for his insights into Bernard Williams' views of Nietzsche's politics, and for providing me access to an unpublished paper by Williams on the topic. Much of my own work attempts to build on this and for that I am ever grateful. 

Hugo Drochon

I just wanted to say what a great teacher Geoffrey was (he had such a lovely, measured way of explaining things and a really unique, soothing voice that made even complicated or dry subjects seem full of life and interest). My favourite thing about him was the way in which I never, ever, got the feeling that he thought himself in any way 'better' than anyone he came into contact with- despite his amazing intellect and incredible command of his subject. I hope he knew how much he was both admired but more importantly, liked.

Alex Swallow

I was privileged to have been taught by Geoff first in my second year, on his Thucydides course, and then for my third year dissertation. I wasn’t a frequent attendee of lectures during my time at Cambridge, but I never missed his thoughts on the Peloponnesian wars. His lyrical narrative and obvious passion for the subject made lectures feel more like entertainment than hard work, yet when then attempting an essay one would realise that so much of what he said had actually sunk in, rather than flown over. And the supervisions in his office on Jesus Lane – my father is a bibliophile, but I had still never seen so many books in such a small space – everything seemed to be constructed out of carefully stacked hardbacks; the coffee table, the desk, even the chairs in my memory seem to have been compiled out of academia. 

I was too intimidated by his obvious brilliance to first approach him to supervise my dissertation, but some thinking over the summer before my third year started convinced me to change my chosen topic and ask Geoff if he could possibly somehow find time to squeeze me in – I was so shocked when he accepted. My previously-confirmed supervisor was initially annoyed, until I told him I was going to work with Geoff – hard to compete against that.

My hours spent with him over that year were challenging, stimulating, at times intellectually agonising, but he demanded not that I necessarily read more, certainly not write more, or even ‘work’ harder, but to think more, in different directions, from other angles, to think again, for a third or fourth time. “Have you got a chap?” I vividly remember him once asked me, suggesting that I find one prominent philosopher and to try and align my muddled views within his or hers framework. By the end of the year, I wanted my dissertation to be good not for me, but for Geoff.

Ultimately, although I did receive a good mark for my dissertation, other bodge-ups meant that my overall Part IIb classification was lower than I expected. The only nice surprise I had the day results were published was a short email from Geoff; he had noticed and took the time to send me a few genuinely uplifting sentences. For someone of his stature to do that for a lowly undergraduate, not even a particularly promising undergraduate – it meant a lot then, and still does some twelve years on.

Although Cambridge will continue to host and nourish brilliant minds, I doubt there could ever be a wiser, kinder, more inspirational teacher and expander of minds than Professor Hawthorn. He is sorely missed but his legacy will be surely treasured by all who encountered him.

Tim Sowula

I was saddened to learn the one and only Professor Geoff Hawthorn, one of my (and all Emma Cambridge students' who studied SPS between 2000 and 2003) favourite academics, has passed away. He was a one-off; he had the most wonderful Radio 4 tone to his voice and attending his early Friday morning lectures at the magnificent Clare Hall was a personal highlight of my university days. He taught me so much that I know today about moral relativism and international affairs. I also loved his supervisions. He was always so fair. His white collarless shirts and lectures on Thucydides will linger long in my memory. Cambridge is a poorer place without this wonderful man.

Andrew Kaye

I remember Geoffrey Hawthorn (or "GPH") as a most inspiring teacher. 

I knew him first when he lectured and supervised me as an undergraduate for the "Development" paper doing Part 2 SPS in 1991-92 and he went on to become my PhD supervisor in 1993-1996. It was under his supervision, after many conversations, sometimes encouraging and sometimes slightly more worrying, always inspiring, and with his recommendation that I published my thesis with Cambridge University Press in 2002 with the title "Liberalism, Democracy and Development".

Geoff's contribution to the Department and the University, as well as the qualities of his mind and work, is undisputed and is remembered and valued by many. Instead, I wanted to note a few recollections and anecdotes of him as a teacher, close up, as a PhD supervisee of his in the 1990s, touch a little on the arc of his career and life, and make a few comments about how SPS contributed to a way of thinking that is very valuable.

The first is something I just have to mention: he always has those piles of books on the floor of his office. It is so defining and so wonderful. When parts of SPS moved to Jesus Lane, he occupied the attic room, and walking just from the door to the chair amongst the dynamic "book-stack sculpture" was quite a challenge at times. What we see is his love of knowledge and the range of his intellectual interest.

Second, as a PhD supervisor, he would type out beautifully-constructed sentences in response to some of my drafts (even if they were very critical comments which meant I had to totally reconstruct everything). I also remember him communicating via postcards (we are, after all, talking about the 1990s here!), sometimes to tell me when he is available for the next supervision or more often that he can't make it – in fact, I found a postcard from him of Matisse’s collage of “the snail”, with the word “snail” circled in the back, his way of apologizing for being late with his comments. He had a talent with and love of words. (And his handwriting was beautiful – very important for those of us who love Chinese calligraphy).

One of the funny things he tells people including me when he was promoted to "Reader" is how when he was at school, his teacher told I think his mother that the only thing he’s good at is reading, and that he's quite chuffed that his job now was to "read". He can be quite funny and enjoyed the fun parts of life. His comment also explained to me a little where his drive came from.

At the end of some of my supervisions, he would sometimes say he should have recorded his conversations. Because he probably could have written more books if he did. I doubt if any of his PhD students would disagree that supervisions were always inspiring and creative, and full of ideas. (In fact, from memory, I even had 1 or 2 friends who somehow managed to get a supervision with him as they wanted some additional perspective or who switched to be supervised by him). He was full of energies and encouragement but his critical mind was always switched on. He was almost without exception discerning. What is clear is that he cared about good arguments and clarity of thinking, he loved putting things through frameworks and seeing the missing bits or the discrepancies. He loved conversing about ideas, crafting and deconstructing arguments, he cared a great deal about his teaching, and he saw his vocation as a craft that is to be sharpened and perfected via practice.

In the academic year 1999-2000, when I taught for a year at Birkbeck in London he was very supportive and very interested, especially in the course materials I developed for "Globalisation". He cared about educating the younger generation, and he helped and supported many younger scholars. He had a great intellect and sharp wits, but it came packaged (somewhat unusually) in a generous and kind personality and a deep laugh. We benefited so much from it: in return, he was much-esteemed and much-loved by many of us that he taught.

My final points bring me back to the present or the near-present: I was in Cambridge briefly in October 2014. He took the time to meet for breakfast - he had just had his latest book (on Thucydides) published and it was amazing for me to have known his Enlightenment and Despair, then the short East Asian book, then the larger Plausible Worlds, and now another new direction. He was very excited about the book; equally he was very interested in what I was doing and what I see in the world around me, as well as the political situation in Hong Kong where I currently live. I was one of his PhD students who didn't go on to pursue an academic career, but that didn’t matter. He sent me a signed copy of the Thucydides book, autographing: “A long way from everything and everywhere – yet perhaps not?”. With some benefit of hindsight, I took it to be, in some ways, a different way of expressing the sentiment that Steve Jobs is known for, how we can’t connect the dots looking forward and can only do so looking backwards. Thus both of them encouraging us to follow our passion, to trust the dots will somehow connect in our future.

This reminds me that he has a love of classical music, and I think Chopin was one of his favourites. One of my non-academic activities was music, and I did a piano recital in Trinity College Chapel just before I graduated. Not only did he actually come to the concert, he even gave me his thoughts about the music afterwards! I can't remember some of it but I do remember him telling me something like he would have been quite happy to go home after the first half, having listened to the Beethoven pathetique sonata and the Mendelssohn variations serieuses, the 2 pieces I played for the first half. Well, he always had good taste!

I had recently come to the realisation that there is actually a strong link between my PhD research interest and my current work (which is in early-stage investing, or what some people call venture capital), even if the two seem to be totally unconnected. Both are about how to grow and create: an economy and new industry in the former, a new and young company and companies in the latter.

This is what I was hoping to tell him. I can just imagine the penetrating and slow, sly smile he would give me, as he would come to recognize my idea and my line of thinking.

There are 2 other connections too. In my work, I do counterfactual thinking often: it’s about asking “what if” and considering plausible scenarios (which also requires a certain degree of imagining). As one of those unusual animals who came to SPS from Natural Sciences and highly mathematically trained, it was quite obvious to me that thinking counterfactually is very important. It is interesting also to ponder on a third connection: from my observations, GPH worked as if he were perfecting a craft via frequent practice; similarly, one of the pioneers in venture capital and a mentor has said to me right at the very beginning of my journey that learning to do well requires time and that VC is essentially a “craft” requiring years of apprenticeship.

Finally, I feel a kind of kindred spirit in being one of those individuals who also have and had, even as a student, sympathy and curiosity across a wide range of subjects / topics.

It's been a very long time since I was a student in Cambridge. But as one of my peers who did go on to pursue an academic career put it, “he was such a great teacher whom I always wanted to resemble”.

Dr Sylvia Chan


I knew Geoff Hawthorn as a lecturer and supervisor for a course I took in my final year as an undergraduate. He was a wonderful teacher, in so many ways.

Geoff’s lectures made us think – rather than just sit and consume. By the end of a lecture, I would wander out in a bit of a daze, from the effects of taking in so many insights in one go. Geoff would help us to understand ideas and their contexts, without talking down to us or simplifying things to the point of debasement. He didn’t waste our time telling us whatever politics undergraduates might want to hear. His lectures together made up an elegant, carefully crafted narrative. There were no annoying gimmicks, and no resort to the needlessly fancy language of those who have nothing to say.

As a supervisor, Geoff never seemed to be bored or just “going through the hoops”, even when teaching an undergraduate course on subjects he must have taught umpteen times. He was engaged, seemed genuinely interested in our ideas, and was willing to start with whatever scrap of comment we could produce on the last week’s reading. Geoff also took an interest in the welfare of politics students more broadly, and was willing to push for improvements, when he might have simply retreated into his research.

And then, there were Geoff’s many acts of kindness. The time I missed an appointment and, mortified, phoned to grovel – to be met with such a generous, forgiving response. The time we turned up to a revision session, to find that he had provided us with strawberries to make up for our spending May in the library. He also sought out my home address and wrote me a very encouraging letter about my exam after I graduated, which I have kept with me despite extensive travel since then.

For me, Geoff was an inspirational teacher. How lucky I was to have to take that dry-sounding, but compulsory “theory” course in my final year. By the end of it, I was impatient for the exams to finish - so I could get back to the reading. Having been taught by Geoff Hawthorn has made my life more interesting, and more tolerable.

Kirsten Coope

In September, 2014 there was a lunch to celebrate 50 years of Sociology at Essex University. Amongst those prepared to fork out for the lunch was Geoff – of course, in these artificially mean times it was not free. When I saw his name on the circulation list, I emailed him. I had just had a book published and offered him a copy in thanks for his help and teaching me at Essex in 1970. I was surprised that he remembered me as I had only encountered him just before he had scooted off to Cambridge. I was then a Fine Art graduate who had written a crumby undergraduate thesis on Berlin Dada, and was tumbling painfully out of a foolish early marriage after finding out that I was not suited to teaching fine art nor driven enough to make the stuff for the rest of my life. My solution to these problems was a sociology conversion year at Essex, followed by the MA in Sociology and, eventually, a Ph.D. Initially, as I wrote to Geoff in 2014, I did not have a clue, although I had corresponded with and visited Berlin to meet those Berlin Dadaists still living – an ingénu’s fieldwork, one might suppose.

I read voraciously at Essex and wrote rambling essays for Geoff. Stylistically, they must have been a pain for him but he carefully commented on them. One comment I remember on an essay on social class was, though, a certain weary, “Well, it is certainly all there.” Nevertheless, despite this, he apologised once for delaying comment on what I had written, blaming the “whirligig of the start of term”. I snapped up the phrase for later use. He never made me feel foolish and never was discouraging as I found my own intellectual way. The only time I did feel foolish – and still do – is when I told him I had seen a Golden Oriole down near the river Colne. We were both birders. His first question was whether it was male or female. I had to confess I was so taken with seeing the bird that I did not register its gender. (I know now it was a female.)

Geoff offered me in return for my new book a copy of his last book, the commentary on Thucydides. We could swop books and talk at the lunch. Before meeting, we wrote about birding and I recommended the photographs of my oldest friend, the wild-life photographer, Roger Powell, whom Geoff gladly checked out. When we did meet at the lunch I also showed him a magnificent self-published photographic essay by Hervé Bertozzi on La Crau – a famous habitat in the south of France. Geoff seemed more keen on getting a copy of this than of my book. He was disappointed, as I had to explain that only Hervé’s friends and family got the books, and even so I had had to pay the production cost price of 140 Euros.

We agreed, however, that going to extraordinary places was not the essence of our birding practice. We both preferred persistently returning to a familiar site, as had Hervé, in order to be able to properly understand what was actually extraordinary about it all. Geoff knew he was really in his favourite place when he had clocked one of the resident kingfishers. The Thucydides book is obviously the result of the same practice of habitual visiting, observing and thinking, and waiting until the intellectual equivalent of a kingfisher turned up.

At home I read his Thucydides book. I am ashamed to confess that I did not read Thucydides first, which would have been the proper thing to do. It was, however, easy to admire the elegance of the writing and the intellectual penetration of the author. It was evidently not sociology as I understood it and I began to have the sinking feeling that he could not possibly like my book. I wrote to him in that vein so that I could excuse him the chore of reading (again) what I had written. He almost immediately emailed me a thousand words of most generous comment and criticism (most of which I now accept), which began with the avowal that far from not liking my “terrifically written” book, he had read it all at one sitting, as he had been so engaged by it. It was a dream of a review and I floated on air.

I hazarded the idea that, with his permission, I might show his letter to my editor at Ashgate. He had a proviso: he did not want to change the sentiments or content but he thought he should express more clearly some of his comments. He sent me the redrafted letter and asked me destroy the earlier version. That was not easy as both of his responses are things I treasure. At the lunch, he had asked me if I felt that I had properly expressed myself in the book. On reflection, I thought that I had but I was deeply struck by the idea. It was indeed a very Geoff thing to hope for. As the reviewer, James Romm, suggests of his Thucydides book in The London Review of Books (21 January, 2016), Geoff contradicts Thucydides because he argues that Sparta attacked Athens out of a sense what the “necessary identity” of Sparta was, that is, a war-like state which needed to impress itself, its allies and its enemies.

We had been in California visiting relatives for some weeks and slipped into Romm’s review – I was catching up with missed reading - was the totally unexpected news that Geoff had died, as it turned out, on New Year’s Eve. It was like a kick in the solar plexus but it did appear to explain his silence for some months before his death. In any case, my terminal cancer had gained the upper-hand temporarily over the summer and early autumn, so I was preoccupied.

He was a distinctive figure in every sense. There were people at the celebratory Essex lunch whom I struggled to recognise. Not so Geoff, even after over four decades. That great mane of hair, now pure white, and magnificently generous Roman profile, marked him out. He still had a glamorous swish about him and was sporting a blouson and a dazzling white shirt, which was very sixties Essex. I read once that a person, having been primed to meet George Bernard Shaw, complained that his informant did not tell him the most obvious fact: Shaw had an Irish accent. Geoff had a beautiful, distinctive and beguiling voice. The accent cannot have come from his impoverished background but it was a wonderful, rich, creation.

In one email exchange, he enquired of an academic we both knew, “She’s gone, hasn’t she?” The hard part is imagining him “gone”, when he is lodged so vividly in many people’s memories.

Andrew McCulloch 


We are students from Hong Kong who had the privilege of reading parts of the SPS Tripos at Cambridge in the early 1990s. It was then countdown to 1997. Hong Kong, which had a tradition of social and economic freedoms unprotected by democratic institutions, would be returned to China under the framework of “One Country, Two Systems”. It was a time full of hopes and fears. We arrived at Cambridge, curious to know more about political systems and social development. When we left, we took with us not just a more structured way of thinking about the world, but memories of an amazing teacher, Professor Hawthorn, whose deep interest in issues of Development touched us all.

All three of us took his paper on Development. Patricia had the added privilege of having Professor Hawthorn supervise her third-year dissertation. It was an attempt to understand how political awareness and social action had changed in Hong Kong in the run-up to 1997. If the minute details on the situation of a small city were trivial in the global context, Professor Hawthorn would not have you believe it. He listened, he guided, and the result was a paper that was the best gift to Patricia that she could ever receive from her days at Cambridge. She remained deeply grateful for his patience and his guidance.

As we remember Professor Hawthorn, we couldn’t help but notice how his passing coincided with a particularly dark moment in Hong Kong. On December 31, 2015, Hong Kong’s (not democratically-elected) Chief Executive, as the default Chancellor of the cities’ universities, appointed a pro-government candidate as the new chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council. The appointment was widely seen as a move by the government to tighten its hold on the university, and was done amid strong opposition from university staff, students and alumni. One day later, on January 1, 2016, it was revealed that Mr. Lee Bo, who runs a local bookstore Causeway Bay Books, had vanished. His company published books about political leaders that were banned in China. Circumstances of his disappearance – that there was no record of him having left the city, but that he later contacted his wife to say that he was ‘helping with an investigation’ in China, were disturbing. Speculation was rife that he was taken by mainland security officers from Hong Kong, and the implication of that on the state of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ was devastating. As of the date of this writing (17 January 2016), official clarification on his whereabouts were not forthcoming.

The current juncture provoked some thoughts from Sylvia, who, after Part 2 SPS, went on to do a PhD under the supervision of Professor Hawthorn, that became the book Liberalism, Democracy and Development (Cambridge University Press, 2002). This stressed how "liberal democracy" had three components of the "liberal" - the economic, the civil and the political - and that the relationship of each of these with economic development is far from linear and needs careful unpacking.

As Hong Kong sits at a particularly critical time in its history: her thoughts are on questions about leadership and the culture of "civil" institutions in the society, and how these drive the particular way the various dimensions of the "liberal" affect or contribute to economic development. In Hong Kong, we are concerned about how a tightening of both the political and the civil, worrying development in itself, will also bode poorly for the city's economic development and its position in the international economic system (which has been the raison d'etre for granting it its "special status" and leverage in the "one country, two systems" idea).

We all think about carefully constructing plausible counterfactuals as our teacher's work urges us to think about. What if one of our city's previous collective attempts at pushing for democracy had been less incremental and less timid? Related questions include: were the external "constraints" so overwhelming that the only possible step was incremental? How and was it a "given" that academic institutions start becoming politicised? What lessons can we draw from the relative "failure" of the last 20 years?

Similarly useful questions we think can be asked on the "civil" and "economic" liberties side. For example, what if the economic integration with China had happened at a different pace, how might that have affected the political and social situation? To what extent is the late start of the political and civil organisation of the Hong Kong citizenry (known for its political "apathy") a key contributing factor for the current predicament (from this perspective, the "awakening" and the political experience gained during the "umbrella revolution" in late 2014 gives us hope)? (In other words, what if the citizenry of Hong Kong had gained more of such experiences earlier in its history?)

We are happy to report that Rodney is now teaching at one of the universities here in Hong Kong, an elected council member, and right in the midst of all these developments. Professor Hawthorn would have approved.

As we collectively ponder on these questions, we muse on how Professor Hawthorn would have thoroughly enjoyed thinking through and talking about these real, on-the-ground developments, and wonder what he might have to say about them. He will be greatly missed.

Rodney Chu (SPS graduate, St Edmunds, 1991)
Sylvia Chan (Natural Sciences Part I, SPS Part II graduate, Trinity, 1992, PhD supervised by Professor Hawthorn, granted 1998)
Patricia Tse (SPS graduate, Downing, 1993)