A tribute to Ian Taylor

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death on 22nd February of Ian Taylor, Professor in International Relations and African Political Economy in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, at the age of just 52. A hugely influential scholar, Ian wrote a number of important books including Africa Rising? BRICS – Diversifying Dependency (James Currey, 2014) and African Politics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2018). He had a distinguished and truly international career, holding visiting professorships at Renmin University of China, the University of Stellenbosch, the University of Addis Ababa, and Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda.  

As the above shows, he travelled widely – he visited 44 African countries and travelled across Europe, Asia and North America. He was also prominent in academic networks, from St Andrews Africa Summit (SAASUM) to the China-Africa Research Initiative and The New Silk Road Project, as well as being joint editor of the Journal of Modern African StudiesAnother measure of his standing is the fact that his work has been cited over 9,500 times globally and translated into Afrikaans, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. 

I met Ian at one of the first African Studies events I attended when I joined James Currey, the Centre for African Studies at Edinburgh’s 50th anniversary conference in 2012. Though I was just a novice in African Studies publishing, Ian was enthusiastic and welcoming, and open to discussing new books. That day’s chat on BRICS led to Africa Rising? BRICS – Diversifying Dependency published in James Currey’s African Issues series in 2014. A generous, warm-spirited man, Ian was always keen to further the interests of colleagues, often making introductions to those whom he knew were working towards publications of their own. Ian was working on a second book for James Currey when he received his diagnosis. Ever positive, his enforced break from teaching and travelling during his illness was giving him the ‘opportunity’ to write, he told me. He retained his breezy sense of humour and, a kind man, appreciated the kindness of others: ‘The NHS are brilliant. Zero complaints about anything.’ He was ‘still trying to crack on’, though ‘avoiding possible Covid-19 situations as much as possible. So, no beaches in Bournemouth for me!’ 

It is no surprise to learn that Ian was a committed Christian and an elder in the Church of Scotland. His championing of the works of others was driven by the need for all voices to be heard. I feel privileged to have known him, and the warm publishing relationship that we enjoyed is one I will always remember. Like his many colleagues, I will miss him, his dedication to African Studies and to creating a community of scholarship. Our thoughts at James Currey and Boydell & Brewer go out to his wife, Jo, children Archie and Blythe, his colleagues and friends.

This post was written by Jaqueline Mitchell, Commissioning Editor at James Currey.