Biographical entry: Hogbin, Herbert Ian Priestly (1904 - )

17 December 1904


H. Ian Preistly Hogbin was one of the pioneers of anthropological fieldwork in Melanesia, working in five communities, three in the Solomon Islands. He was born on 17 December 1904 in Serlby Haworth, in Nottinghamshire, and was named Herbert William Hogbin, but later changed his name to Herbert Ian Priestly Hogbin. He immigrated to Australia with his parents while a child and attended a rural school in New South Wales and Fort Street High in Sydney, then studied at the University of Sydney. He began his anthropological career in 1927 when, through Professor Radcliffe Brown and with Rockefeller Foundation funds, he briefly visited Rennell Island with a geological expedition, and then Ontong Java. The latter was the subject of his doctoral study at the London School of Economics, supervised by Professor Bronislaw Malinowski, and published as Law and Order in Polynesia (1934). During 1933, Hogbin conducted research in Guadalcanal and north Malaita (To'aba'ita), and for most of 1934 at Wogeo in New Guinea. His wrote up his Malaitan research in Experiments in Civilisation (1939) and several journal articles. In 1935 he was a Fellow of the Australian National Research Council, teaching at University of Sydney. He then went to London for discussions with Malinowski and returned in mid-1936 to a teaching position at University of Sydney.

At the request of Western Pacific High Commissioner Sir Philip Mitchell, in 1943 Hogbin served as a member of the BSIP Defence Force. He was responsible for writing the Protectorate's Native Court and Local Government Policy in preparation for postwar rehabilitation, and he revisited north Malaita to update his earlier fieldwork. Late in the war years Hogbin was also a member of the Australian Government National Morale Committee and the Army Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs, where he became official adviser on native affairs to the America High Command of the South West Pacific, largely related to New Guinea. He was attached to the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) and reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Hogbin returned to a permanent position at the University of Sydney in 1936, where he remained until he retired as a Reader in 1970. His final wartime fieldwork was at Busama in New Guinea, and he never returned to field research after 1948. Instead, he devoted himself to lecturing, writing and advising students. His book on the Kaoka language speakers on Guadalcanal is A Guadalcanal Society (1964). Other material about the Solomons can be found in his many academic articles and in his book Social Change (1958), which describes the effects of the Second World War. Hogbin inspired a new generation of anthropologists by espousing fieldwork and writing in clear English. (Beckett and Gray 2007; Beckett 1986)

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  • Beckett, Jeremy, 'Ian Hogbin', American Etyhnology, vol. 13, no. 4, 1986, pp. 799-801. Details