William Henry Scott (historian)

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William Henry Scott
ScottWiki.jpg
William Henry Scott at Sagada (1989)
Born William Henry Scott
July 10, 1921
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died October 4, 1993(1993-10-04) (aged 72)
St. Luke's Medical Center
Quezon City, Philippines
Resting place
Saint Mary The Virgin Cemetery
Sagada, Mountain Province
Nationality American
Other names Henry King Ahrens
Occupation Historian

William Henry Scott (July 10, 1921–October 4, 1993) was a historian of the Gran Cordillera Central and Prehispanic Philippines. He personally rejected the description anthropologist as applying to himself.

Early life[edit]

William Henry Scott was born on 10 July 1921, in Detroit, Michigan, where he was christened Henry King Ahrens.[1] His family, of Dutch-Lutheran descent, soon returned to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where Scott spent his boyhood.[2] In 1936, Scott won a three-year scholarship to the Episcopalian-affiliated Cranbrook School in Michigan USA, where he excelled academically and became interested in pursuing a career as an archeologist.[2] In 1939, after graduating, he changed his name to William Henry Scott.[2] In 1942, Scott joined the US Navy, serving throughout World War II until 1946. He was recalled to service in the navy for eighteen months during the Korean War.[2] In 1946, Scott joined the Episcopal Church mission in China. He taught and studied in Shanghai, Yangchow and Beijing until 1949. With the general expulsion of foreigners from China in 1949, he followed some of his teachers to Yale University where he enrolled, graduating in 1951 with a BA in Chinese language and literature.[2] Immediately upon graduation he was recalled to active duty and served in the navy for eighteen months during the Korean War. In 1953 he was appointed lay missionary in the Protestant Epsicopal Church in the United States of America. Although he wanted to teach in Japan until he could return to China, he accepted an available post as teacher of English and history in the Philippines, and was assigned to St Mary’s School in Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines. After preparatory studies in the United States, he reached Sagada in January 1954.[2]

In the Philippines[edit]

Scott's house in Sagada, viewed from the former Training School in 2007

The Episcopal Church became well established in the Cordillera mountain region of Northern Luzon during the US colonial period, and it was here that Scott settled. He spent much of the remainder of his life in the Kankana-ey town of Sagada. Known to his friends as "Scotty", he became a focus for pilgrimage by numerous foreign and Filipino academics, entertaining them in his book-lined study while he puffed away on his trademark cigar.

Soon after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, Scott was arrested as a subversive and placed in military detention.[3] Several of the boys Scott had taught and sponsored over the years he had lived in Sagada belonged to the anti-Marcos opposition, and Scott was alleged to be a communist sympathiser. As an American citizen Scott could have easily left the Philippines, but he declined, and so faced deportation proceedings. Marcos' outward commitment to legal formalities resulted in Scott being put on trial for subversion. In court, "resoundingly supported and defended by friends, students, and colleagues, and by Scott's own brilliant testimony", he was exonerated with the court dismissing the charges in 1973.[3]

Scott was given "a memorable and triumphant welcome back in Sagada" following his acquittal.[3] He continued to be critical of the Marcos regime. The high level of esteem in which he was held protected him from further prosecution, although his situation remained precarious until the lifting of martial law. He criticized US colonial rule and continuing US involvement in Philippine politics after independence, especially US support for Marcos. In this he pursued a similar line to the Filipino nationalist historian Renato Constantino.

Writer and lecturer[edit]

Scott observed the Igorot people of the Cordillera region had preserved elements of pre-colonial culture to a greater degree, and over a wider area, than could be found elsewhere in the Philippines. He saw the resistance of Igorots to attempts by the Marcos government to develop projects in the region as a model for resistance elsewhere in the country. He did not support the view that the Igorot people are intrinsically different to other Filipinos, or the view that the Cordillera should become an ethnic preserve.

Scott was scathing of views that divide Filipinos into ethnic groups, describing Henry Otley Beyer's wave migration theory as representing settlement by 'wave after better wave' until the last wave which was 'so advanced that it could appreciate the benefits of submitting to American rule'.[4] Views like these resonated with the progressive nationalist opposition to Marcos.

Scott held a Bachelor's degree from Yale University, a Masters from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of Santo Tomas. Scott's dissertation was published by the University of Santo Tomas Press as Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History in 1968. A revised and expanded second edition was published in 1984.[5] He debunked the Kalantiaw legend in this book. Datu Kalantiaw was the main character in a historical fabrication written in 1913 by Jose E. Marco. Through a series of failures by scholars to critically assess Marco's representation, the invented legend was adopted as actual history. [6] As a result of Scott's work, Kalantiaw is no longer a part of the standard history texts in the Philippines.[7]

Scott's first well known academic work is The Discovery of the Igorots.[8] This is a history of the Cordillera mountain region over several centuries of Spanish contact, constructed from contemporary Spanish sources. Scott argues that the difficulties the Spaniards encountered extending their rule in the face of local resistance resulted in the inhabitants of the region being classified as a 'savage' race separate to the more tractable lowland Filipinos. Scott adopted a similar approach in Cracks in the Parchment Curtain [9] in which he tries to glean a picture of pre-colonial Philippine society from early Spanish sources. This project was criticized by the Asianist Benedict Anderson who argued that it yielded a vision of Philippine society filtered through 'late medieval' Spanish understanding.[10] Scott was aware of this limitation, but argued Spanish records provided glimpses of Filipino society and native reaction to colonial dominion, often incidental to the intention of the Spanish chronicler, which were the cracks in the Spanish parchment curtain.[11]

In 1994, the Ateneo de Manila University posthumously gave Scott the Tanglaw ng Lahi Award for a lifetime "spent in teaching not only in the classroom, but also the outside world by means of the broad reaches of his contacts and communication, and most of all through his hundreds of published scholarly articles and inspirationals which continue to disseminate and teach honest Philippine history to succeeding generations of Filipinos."

One of Scott's last full scale books was Ilocano Responses to American Aggression.[12] The foreword was written by Joma Sison, the head of the Philippine Communist Party. The EDSA revolution, which coincided with the publication of the book, obscured the fact that the foreword had been written while Sison was in jail.

Harold C Conklin's Biographical Note and Bibliography [13] lists 243 extant written works by Scott from 1945 until those posthumously published in 1994.

Death[edit]

Scott died unexpectedly on 4 October 1993, aged 72,[1] in St Luke's Hospital, Quezon City, following what was considered to have been a routine gall bladder operation. He was buried in the cemetery of Saint Mary the Virgin, Sagada, Mountain Province on 10 October 1993.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

The Episcopalian Church's only Training School in the Philippines when Scott came to Sagada in the 1950s, pictured 2007
Scott's more well known works include
Festschrift in honor of William Henry Scott
Select Collected Works
Works as editor

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Peralta, Jesus T, editor (2001) p.15
  2. ^ a b c d e f Peralta, Jesus T, editor (2001) p.16
  3. ^ a b c Peralta, Jesus T, editor (2001) p.17
  4. ^ Scott, William Henry (1987)
  5. ^ Scott, William Henry (1984)
  6. ^ Scott, William Henry (1984) pp132-134
  7. ^ Kalantiaw, the Hoax
  8. ^ Scott, William Henry (1974)
  9. ^ Scott, William Henry (1982)
  10. ^ Anderson, Benedict (1991). Imagined Communities. ISBN 0-86091-329-5. 
  11. ^ Scott, William Henry, (1982) (emended edition 1985) p1
  12. ^ Scott, William Henry (1986)
  13. ^ Peralta, Jesus T, editor (2001) p15-38
  14. ^ Peralta, Jesus T, editor (2001) p.18

Biography and bibliography[edit]