David Prescott Barrows

David Prescott Barrows (June 27, 1873 – September 5, 1954) was an American anthropologist, explorer, and educator. Born in Chicago in 1874, his family moved to California.[1] He showed a keen interest in the life and customs of the American Indians, and was said to have "spent almost every summer during the period 1890–1899 in research work among the tribes of southern California and in the Colorado Desert."[1] He later became President of the University of California. He went on many travels, publishing works of his findings in countries such as Morocco and the Philippines.[2] He described Marrakesh as Morocco's "strangest city", and wrote of it "The city lies some fifteen or twenty miles from the foot of the Atlas mountains, which here rise to their grandest proportions. The spectacle of the mountains is superb. Through the clear desert air the eye can follow the rugged contours of the range for great distances to the north and eastward. The winter snow mantle them with white, and the turquoise sky gives a setting for their grey rocks and gleaming caps that is of unrivaled beauty."[3] Barrows in his book "Berbers And Blacks: Impressions Of Morocco, Timbuktu And The Western Sudan" has extensively covered on his travel experience and findings traveling to Algeria and Morocco.[4]

Early years

Barrows graduated from Pomona College, in 1894, and got his Master's degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1895 in political science. He got his doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in anthropology from the University of Chicago, in 1897. During the summers between 1890 and 1899 he pursued research to get his Ph.D. with the thesis on "the Ethno-Botany of the Coahuilla Indians of Southern California", which was based on his interaction with the tribes of southern California and the Colorado Desert.[5]


Barrows taught history in the state normal school in San Diego. In 1900, he got an assignment as superintendent of schools for Manila by William Howard Taft, president of the Philippine Commission. His career in Philippines was eventful as he was designated to the post of Chief of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes of the Philippine Islands, and also reconnoitered many unknown areas in the Philippines. In 1903, as general superintendent of education for the Islands, he was instrumental in total reorganization of the educational system.[5] After his return from Philippines, he worked for the University of California, holding the post of professor of education and then Dean of the Graduate School, in 1910. In 1911, he became professor of political science, and in 1913, was the Dean of the Faculties.[5]

During the First World War, he served in various capacities as Member of the American Commission for Relief in Belgium, as a major of cavalry unit serving in the Philippines, and as an intelligence officer in Philippines and Siberia with the American Expeditionary Forces. He served in the defense establishments till 1919. Even after he returned to the University of California, he worked with the National Guard of the United States, till 1937 where he reached the rank of Major general. During the 1934 Maritime Strike in San Francisco Barrows lead the assault against the striking maritime workers to gain union recognition and union hiring halls. In a 1939 department of labor and immigration trial to deport Longshore leader Harry Bridges, Barrows admitted on the stand that he had been friendly with General Semenoff of Siberia during his time in Russia fighting for the White Czarist forces. While claiming to have no bias against communists, Barrows asserted they were by nature violent, despite the fact that the widely democratically supported Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 came to power without a single shot fired until the outside invasion came that he was part of. While General Semenoff of Siberia shocked the world with his barbaric atrocities against the workers and people of Russia, Barrows defended him stating that he was "just a soldier...who did what any other would do under such circumstances..." From December 1919 to June 1923, he was the elected president of the University of California. He traveled for one year to Africa, Timbuktu and Sudan. He returned from Africa in 1924 and held the post of chairman of the Department of Political Science and continued to teach till he retired in 1943. He wrote many syndicated articles for journals, newspapers, The World in Review, participated in radio talks, and also wrote many books on his experiences in Philippines and Africa. The book on his visit to Africa titled, "Berbers And Blacks: Impressions Of Morocco, Timbuktu And The Western Sudan" is very informative about Morocco and some of the important aspects narrated by him are explained in the next section.[5]

His post retirement activity also covered public service, in various capacities, such as on the Board of Trustees of Mills College, the California State Commission on Rural Credit and Land Colonization, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, and the Board of Trustees of California College in China. During the Second World War, as he was not eligible for active service, he was appointed as consultant to the Secretary of War and the Office of Strategic Services.

After a long and highly distinguished career he died at the age of 81, on September 5, 1954.[5] His papers can be found in the University Archives to the Manuscripts Division; his daughter Mrs. Ella Hagar further added to the collections.[5] He is the namesake of Barrows Hall on UC Berkeley's campus, which was built in 1964.[6]


  1. "Finding Aid to the David P. Barrows papers, 1890–1954". Bancroft Library. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  2. Clymer, Kenton J. "Humanitarian Imperialism: David Prescott Barrows and the White Man's Burden in the Philippines". Pacific Historical Review, University of California Press, Vol. 45, No. 4 (Nov., 1976), accessed via JSTOR. pp. 495–517. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  3. Barrows, David Prescott (31 May 2004). Berbers And Blacks: Impressions Of Morocco, Timbuktu And The Western Sudan. Kessinger Publishing. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-4179-1742-6.
  4. Barrows 2004, p. coverpage.
  5. "Barrows, David P. (David Prescott), 1873-1954-Biographical History". National Endowment for Humanities. Archived from the original on 28 December 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  6. "Berkeley Heritage". Retrieved 27 April 2015.


Academic offices
Preceded by
Benjamin Ide Wheeler
President of the University of California
Succeeded by
William Wallace Campbell
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