Prof. Emer. Patrick Allan Lifford Harries, PhD, 31 May 1950 – 2 June 2016

La connaissance du passé satisfait d’abord un besoin humain fondamental, celui de comprendre et d’organiser le monde, de donner un sens au chaos des évènements qui s’y succèdent. Nous savons bien, même si nous n’y pensons pas toujours, que nous sommes faits de ce passé ; le rendre intelligible, c’est aussi commencer à nous connaître.
Tzvetan Todorov (Le jardin imparfait - La pensée humaniste en France, 1998, p.322)

Science, that goes out across the continents, gathering its rich harvest of facts, studying geographical and climatic phenomena, collecting new animal forms, observing the customs and languages of primitives races, all in order to one day reconstruct the admirable set of facts, to understand if not the reason behind, at least the way in which humans and things are arranged on our marvelous planet.
Henri-Alexandre Junod, 1897 (Butterflies and Barbarians, Patrick Harries: 2007, p.146)

Isabelle Harries Vautier in Pully Switzerland
Emily Harries in Basel Switzerland
Ann Harries in Chipping Norton UK
and their families 

 are very sad to announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, brother, brother in law, cousin and uncle


which occurred in Cape Town on 2 June in his 66th year.

The funeral was held in Cape Town on Friday 10 June 2016 at 2pm at St Michaels Catholic Church, Rouwkoop Road, 7700 Rondebosch, Cape Town.

A commemorative ceremony will be held in Basel in the Aula of the Museum of Natural History, Augustinergasse 2 on Monday 20 June 2016 at 3pm.

You will always be in our hearts.

Isabelle Harries  e-mail:
Emily  Harries e-mail:
Ann Harries e-mail:

Address of the bereaved:
Fam. Isabelle Harries
Avenue des Cerisiers 6
1009 Pully

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Prof. Emer. Patrick Harries, PhD. On 2 June 2016 we lost a brilliant and internationally renowned scholar as well as a dear friend, colleague and teacher. We express our heartfelt sympathy to Patrick's family.

From 2001 to 2015, Patrick Harries was Professor for African History at the University of Basel and a member of the steering group of the Centre for African Studies Basel (CASB). Patrick was a leading scholar in the fields of the history of labour in Africa, the history of Christian missions and the history of knowledge production. During his time in Basel, Patrick established African History as a distinguishing field at the University and significantly contributed towards the research and teaching activities at the CASB. He led several research projects on the history of knowledge, science and medicine, and Christian missions. More than 30 MA and more than 15 PhD theses were successfully completed at the University of Basel under his supervision.

Patrick Harries studied and, from 1975, taught African History at the University of Cape Town (UCT). In 1983 he completed his PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Patrick returned to the UCT as a senior lecturer for African History and was appointed Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town in 1993. He was a visiting professor at the University of Lausanne (1991), the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (1992) and the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (1996) in Paris, the Humboldt University in Berlin (1996), the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (2000) and the University of Wisconsin in Madison (2001). In 2001 Patrick joined the University of Basel and held the newly created professorship for African history. During his time in Basel, he was awarded fellowships at the University of Stellenbosch (2002), at Re:Work (International Research Centre Work and Human Life Cycle in Global History) at the Humboldt University in Berlin (2010), the University of Cambridge (Smuts Visiting Research Fellowship; 2011), and the Institut d’Études Avancées in Nantes (2015).

In the earlier years of Patrick’s career, his research focused on the history of labour. In 1994, he published his widely acknowledged monograph Work, Culture and Identity: Migrant Labour in Mozambique and South Africa, c.1860–1910. Later, his interest turned to the history of knowledge production in the context of Christian missionary endeavours. During his time in Basel he authored for instance the monograph Butterflies and Barbarians: Swiss Missionaries and Systems of Knowledge in Southeast Africa (2007) and the volume The Spiritual in the Secular: Missionaries and Knowledge about Africa (2012), which he edited with David Maxwell. In more recent years, he focused his research on the transatlantic slave trade, the role of the Cape of Good Hope and, in particular, the fate of the African diaspora at the Cape.

Patrick collapsed on the evening of 2 June 2016 in the mother city. We will miss Patrick dearly and are thankful for his dedicated years of friendship, inspiration, support and cooperation.

A book of condolences will be available at the coordinating office of the Centre for African Studies from Wednesday 8 June to Monday 20 June 2016.

The Centre for African Studies Basel




Harries, Patrick: Butterflies and Barbarians: Swiss Missionaries and Systems of Knowledge in South-East Africa, Oxford / Harare / Athens, Ohio 2007.
Harries, Patrick / Maxwell, David (eds.): The Spiritual in the Secular: Missionaries and Knowledge about Africa (Studies in the History of Christian Missions. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, USA), 2012.