Development economist passionate about communicating ideas
Pat Devine later published Thursday May 13 2004 The Guardian
There was a paradox in the career of development economist Phil Leeson, who has died of cancer aged 78. He spent relatively little time in developing countries, and published rather little. But his influence, from his Manchester University base, was enormous. He was a brilliant teacher and many of his former students are operating at senior levels. Recently, the governor of the Bank of Korea, who had been taught by him, was being awarded an honorary degree by Manchester. Asked whom he would particularly like to be present, the governor replied, "Phil Leeson, of course."
Phil was crucial to the university's diploma and MA in economic development and the interdisciplinary MA in development studies, and supervised innumerable PhD students. It became almost standard practice for colleagues to send manuscripts to him for comments, and back would come several hand-written pages, always searching, but always generous and encouraging - he was the hidden co-author of many articles and books.
Born in Barnton, Cheshire, he was educated at Sir John Deane's grammar school, Northwich. From 1943 to 1947 he served in the army in the Royal Signals. He then read modern history, economics and politics at Manchester University. He also took a teacher's certificate. While a student, he was active in the socialist society, met and married his first wife, Joyce, and in 1949 joined the Communist party.
From 1951 to 1960 he taught history at Ravensbury Street and Newall Green secondary modern schools, and at Ashton Old Road primary school.
He returned to Manchester University to take an MA in economics and in 1962 began his 20-year career as a lecturer in the university's economics department. Phil was passionately committed to development education in the community. He talked to hundreds of Workers' Educational Association, World Development and UN Association meetings, and to sixth forms - on poverty, aid, debt, and foreign investment.
A lifelong campaigner in the peace movement, he had the vision to embrace new activists and activities, and an understanding of what made a movement work. Underlying all his activities was his commitment to Marxism and the Communist party. He was clear where he stood on the issues that tore the party apart in the 1980s, in no doubt that it had to establish its independence from the Soviet Union and retain control over its daily paper, the Morning Star. But he hated the personal bitterness that this struggle produced, and maintained friendships across divides.
He had a profound knowledge of the Peak and Lake Districts, and was for years a member of Lancashire County Cricket Club, a theatregoer, and a devotee of PG Wodehouse. He loved history. He was a regular at Hallé Orchestra concerts and the Royal Northern College of Music. His kindness, loyalty, modesty and integrity made him widely loved.
He leaves his wife, Dorothy, and a daughter and son from his first marriage.
Philip Frank Leeson, economist, born November 28 1925; died April 1 2004
Phil Leeson's Book
Phil produced a draft for a book on Models of Development. We are working, slowly, on getting it published. In the mean time a draft is available here: Comments about it are welcome. If you have any please get in touch with Nick.Weaver@manchester.ac.uk.