Philip M. Taylor, 1954-2010

January 6, 2011

A professor who considered himself "a goalkeeper pretending to be an academic", after turning to academe following a sporting injury, has died.

Philip M. Taylor, of the University of Leeds, was the first professor of international communications in the UK. He was particularly interested in the military application of communications, especially after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the US, and passionately believed that academics have a duty to make their expertise available to those working at the sharp end.

Gary Rawnsley, professor of Asian international communicationss, said: "He particularly enjoyed delivering his research to military communities around the world; Phil hoped and believed that the lives of soldiers could be saved if they were taught to communicate more effectively."

Professor Taylor's interest in this subject began during his doctoral research, when he found a record of an encounter at the end of the First World War between Lord Northcliffe, then director of enemy propaganda, and a military general.

Asked what he had done during the war, Lord Northcliffe replied: "Propaganda and that sort of thing." The general rather disparagingly described such activities as a "filthy business", prompting Lord Northcliffe to reply: "While you were piling up the casualty lists, we were trying to cut them down. If I can persuade a German to throw down his rifle, I have deprived Germany of a soldier, without also having to kill the man."

Professor Rawnsley said: "These words had a profound effect on Phil and became his philosophical framework. All of those from the military who have paid tribute to him since his death have remarked on his commitment to 'propaganda for peace'."

Born on Merseyside in 1954, Professor Taylor was originally destined for a career as a goalkeeper until he suffered a knee injury. Bored during his convalescence, he started to read history books, and became hooked.

His entire academic career was spent at Leeds. In 1975 he graduated with a first-class honours degree in history and was awarded his PhD, supervised by David Dilks, in 1978. He joined the School of History as a lecturer in international history and politics, becoming senior lecturer in 1988. He also met his future wife, Sue Heward, at the university on their second day as undergraduates.

In 1990, Professor Taylor was seconded to be deputy director of the Institute of Communications Studies. He became reader in international communications in 1992 and was awarded his chair in 1998, when he became the institute's second director.

He died on 6 December, and is survived by his wife.

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