Michael Banton (1926-2018)

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Professor Michael Banton last night.  As one of our longest standing members, he will be fondly remembered across the BSA by members and staff.

Michael Banton, latterly Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol, wrote extensively on race relations, and was the first Editor of the BSA journal Sociology

As many sociologists, Professor Banton did not start out with a career in sociology:  He served in the Royal Navy during the war, before beginning a BSc at the London School of Economics in 1947. He planned to specialise in economics, but he was recruited to sociology by his tutor, Edward Shils, who was an inspiring tutor, even if Professor Banton didn’t rate his lectures. After graduating in 1950, he conducted research on the settlement of New Commonwealth immigrants in the East End of London for his PhD at the University of Edinburgh.

He then became lecturer, and later Reader, in social anthropology at Edinburgh, 1954–65, taught political science in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1962-63, and was Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol, 1965-92.

Professor Banton wrote a book on the behaviour of the white British towards New Commonwealth immigrants, White and Coloured, in 1959. His book The Policeman in the Community (1964), a comparative study of policing in Scotland and the United States, was the first book-length sociological study of the police. Later works included Racial and Ethnic Competition (1983), Discrimination (1994) and The International Politics of Race (2002). He may be best known for his book Race Relations (1967), which summarised contemporary social science knowledge of that field.

He was President of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland from 1987 to 1989.  He served as an elected member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination from 1986 to 2001 and as its Chairman from 1996 to 1998, and as Director of the Social Science Research Council Research Unit on Ethnic Relations, 1970-78.

He joined the British Sociological Association in 1951, the year it was launched, and was its longest-serving member, involved in its publications, its events and its study group networks. He edited Sociology from 1967, when it began, to 1969.  He continued to work with the journal throughout his career including publishing in the special issue marking the 50th volume of the journal: Bringing it ‘Home’: Sociological Practice and the Practice of Sociology.

He was honoured by a BSA Lifetime Achievement Award in the 60th anniversary celebrations of the BSA in 2011. 

“Contributing to the growth of sociological knowledge is a vocation to which I was called more than sixty years ago.”1

His legacy is significant.

Thank you Michael.

Main sources

  • http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/BantonWhat
  • https://downloads.sms.cam.ac.uk/1112199/1112206.mp4
  • 1https://www.britsoc.co.uk/media/23524/Michael_Banton_Biographical_Journey.pdf?1455720340940
  • http://bit.ly/2udcATh
  • The British Sociological Association: A Sociological History, by Jennifer Platt (2003)