LAC History Seminar Series: The Biography of President Virgilio Barco: Reflections on the Study of Colombian Politics

Speaker: Malcolm Deas, St Antony’s College

Convener(s): Carlos Pérez Ricart and Eduardo Posada-Carbó


Malcolm Deas graduated from New College with a First in modern History in 1962, and was a Fellow of All Souls College from 1962-1966. He was one of the original staff of the Latin American Centre, founded at that time by Sir Raymond Carr with support from the Ford Foundation, and was a Fellow of St Antony’s College and University Lecturer in the Government and Politics of Latin America from 1966 until his retirement in 2008.  For a number of stretches he was also Director of the Centre. His own research has been chiefly on the nineteenth and twentieth century history of Colombia, where he first spent two years in 1964 and 1965, and where he has been a frequent visitor and resident since. He has written on caciquismo, the history of taxation, civil wars, coffee, insecurity and its economic consequences, the interaction of local and national politics, the interpretation of violence and many other themes. He has also made incursions into the history of Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina.  His many publications include, Vida y opinions de Mr William Wills (1996, 2 vols); Del poder y la gramática (1993); Las fuerzas del orden (2017); and Intercambios violentos (1999 and 2015).  His most recent book, Barco, was published by Taurus in Colombia in 2019.  From 1990 to 1994 he was an advisor in Colombia to President César Gaviria’s Consejería de Seguridad y Defensa, which worked to design policies to reduce Colombia’s high levels of violence. For this he was awarded Colombia’s Cruz de Boyacá, and an O.B.E. He is also a member of the Orden Andrés Bello (Venezuela) and the Orden de Mérito (Ecuador). He has an Honorary Doctorate from the Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá. He was the University’s Senior Proctor, 1986-1987, and is an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College.