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lionel cliffe

Emeritus Professor Lionel R Cliffe, BA

We are very sorry to let members know of the death of Emeritus Professor Lionel Cliffe, on 24 October 2013.  Professor Cliffe was an international authority on African political economy and politics, whose work was respected by governments and international agencies alike.

Born in 1936, Lionel Cliffe was educated at King Edward VII Grammar School, Sheffield and the University of Nottingham, where he read Economics with Mathematics and Statistics.  After graduating, he worked for four years as Information and Research Assistant with Oxfam in Oxford.  Much of the next fifteen years he spent working abroad, principally in Africa.  During this time he was the first Director of Development Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and also taught at the University of Zambia.  Returning to this country in 1976, he briefly taught at the Universities of Sheffield and Durham before being appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Politics at Leeds in 1978.  Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1982 and made Reader in Development Studies in 1988, he was appointed to a Personal Chair in 1990.

Lionel Cliffe undertook research and published extensively on problems of African rural development, especially in southern and eastern Africa and the Horn.  He concentrated in particular on questions of land tenure and land reform, and rural development policies and institutions.  This led on to his exploration of the wider questions of African politics and political economy to which land issues gave rise, particularly the politics of economic development. Sometimes in collaboration with others, he was involved in ground-breaking studies of subjects including government and rural development in East Africa, policy options for agrarian reform in Zimbabwe, food and agricultural production in Eritrea, and land resettlement policy issues in Swaziland and South Africa.  His work – which attracted generous external funding – helped inform the policy-making process in several countries and he was held in high regard by international agencies such as the FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).  In 1986, he took time out from his post at Leeds to serve as Senior Land Tenure and Settlement Officer in the FAO’s Agrarian Reform and Land Settlement Service in Rome.  The influence of his writings was the more marked because of his ability to produce clear, cogent analyses, comprehensible to the non-specialist and bridging the gap between technical experts on the one hand and social theorists on the other.  Lionel Cliffe also produced important studies of elections and democratisation in Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Namibia.

Invariably generous with his time, Lionel Cliffe was over the years supervisor, guide and mentor to a very large number of postgraduate students, academic colleagues, politicians and administrators.  His reputation was instrumental in attracting may overseas students to Leeds.  A founder-editor of the influential journal the Review of African Political Economy, he would willingly spend months in correspondence with a prospective contributor to help render an article suitable for publication.  At Leeds, he was the main driving force behind the setting up of the Centre for Development Studies which introduced a highly successful interdisciplinary Master’s programme and also provided a focus for extensive interdepartmental co-operation in research and scholarship.  Lionel was the Centre’s inaugural Director from 1981 to 1984 and served in this capacity again from 1988 to 1990.  He was Head of the Department of Politics from 1990 to 1993.

Following his retirement in 2001, Lionel formed working collaborations within the School of Geography and he continued to be generous with his time and support for colleagues working within the sphere of African political economy and African politics. He was working on an analysis of land reform in Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

One of Lionel's passions was cricket, both playing and watching. He played regularly for the University staff side and was recognised as an excellent pace bowler. He was also a member of Yorkshire Cricket and most recently researched issues relating to the county's ethnic composition, amongst other things.

The Funeral Service has been held.

The flag on the Parkinson Building was flown at half-mast on 4 November in memory of Professor Cliffe.