William Henry Scott (historian)
William Henry Scott was a historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 of the Gran Cordillera Central and Prehispanic Philippines. He personally rejected the description anthropologist as applying to himself.

Early life

William Henry Scott was born on 10 July 1921, in Detroit, Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

, where he was christened Henry King Ahrens. His family, of Dutch-Lutheran descent, soon returned to Bethlehem
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Bethlehem is a city in Lehigh and Northampton Counties in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 74,982, making it the seventh largest city in Pennsylvania, after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie,...

, Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, where Scott spent his boyhood. In 1936, Scott won a three-year scholarship to the Episcopalian-affiliated Cranbrook School
Cranbrook Educational Community
The Cranbrook Educational Community, a National Historic Landmark, in the US state of Michigan was founded in the early 20th century by newspaper mogul George Gough Booth. Cranbrook campus is in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills consisting of Cranbrook Schools, Cranbrook Academy of Art,...

 in Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

 USA, where he excelled academically and became interested in pursuing a career as an archeologist.
In 1939, after graduating, he changed his name to William Henry Scott.
In 1942, Scott joined the US Navy, serving throughout World War II until 1946. He was recalled to service in the navy for eighteen months during the Korean War. In 1946, Scott joined the Episcopal Church mission in China. He taught and studied in Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

, Yangchow and Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 until 1949. With the general expulsion of foreigners from China in 1949, he followed some of his teachers to Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 where he enrolled, graduating in 1951 with a BA in Chinese language and literature. Immediately upon graduation he was recalled to active duty and served in the navy for eighteen months during the Korean War. In 1953 he was appointed lay missionary in the Protestant Epsicopal Church in the United States of America
Episcopal Church (United States)
The Episcopal Church is a mainline Anglican Christian church found mainly in the United States , but also in Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe...

. Although he wanted to teach in Japan until he could return to China, he accepted an available post as teacher of English and history in the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, and was assigned to St Mary’s School in Sagada, Mountain Province
Mountain Province
Mountain Province is a landlocked province of the Philippines in the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon. Its capital is Bontoc and borders, clockwise from the south, Ifugao, Benguet, Ilocos Sur, Abra, Kalinga, and Isabela.Mountain Province is sometimes incorrectly named Mountain in some...

, Philippines. After preparatory studies in the United States, he reached Sagada in January 1954.

In the Philippines

The Episcopal Church became well established in the Cordillera mountain region of Northern Luzon
Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name for one of the three primary island groups in the country centered on the Island of Luzon...

 during the US colonial period, and it was here that Scott settled. He spent much of the remainder of his life in the Kankana-ey town of Sagada. Known to his friends as "Scotty", he became a focus for pilgrimage by numerous foreign and Filipino academics, entertaining them in his book-lined study while he puffed away on his trademark cigar.

Soon after Ferdinand Marcos
Ferdinand Marcos
Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, Sr. was a Filipino leader and an authoritarian President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He was a lawyer, member of the Philippine House of Representatives and a member of the Philippine Senate...

 declared martial law in 1972, Scott was arrested as a subversive and placed in military detention. Several of the boys Scott had taught and sponsored over the years he had lived in Sagada belonged to the anti-Marcos opposition, and Scott was alleged to be a communist sympathiser. As an American citizen Scott could have easily left the Philippines, but he declined, and so faced deportation proceedings. Marcos' outward commitment to legal formalities resulted in Scott being put on trial for subversion. In court, "resoundingly supported and defended by friends, students, and colleagues, and by Scott's own brilliant testimony", he was exonerated with the court dismissing the charges in 1973.

Scott was given "a memorable and triumphant welcome back in Sagada" following his acquittal. He continued to be critical of the Marcos regime. The high level of esteem in which he was held protected him from further prosecution, although his situation remained precarious until the lifting of martial law. He criticized US colonial rule and continuing US involvement in Philippine politics after independence, especially US support for Marcos. In this he pursued a similar line to the Filipino nationalist historian Renato Constantino
Renato Constantino
Renato Constantino was an influential Filipino historian. He was a known leftist historian of the Philippines. He is the father-in-law of political commentator Randy David.-Works:*The Philippines: A Past Revisited...


Writer and lecturer

Scott observed the Igorot
Cordillerans are the people of the Cordillera region, in the Philippines island of Luzon. The word, Igorot is a misnomer term invented by the Spaniards in mockery against the Nortnern Luzon tribes. The word ‘Igorot’ also as coined and applied by the Spaniards means a savage, head-hunting and...

 people of the Cordillera region had preserved elements of pre-colonial culture to a greater degree, and over a wider area, than could be found elsewhere in the Philippines. He saw the resistance of Igorots to attempts by the Marcos government to develop projects in the region as a model for resistance elsewhere in the country. He did not support the view that the Igorot people are intrinsically different to other Filipinos, or the view that the Cordillera should become an ethnic preserve.

Scott was scathing of views that divide Filipinos into ethnic groups, describing Henry Otley Beyer's wave migration theory as representing settlement by 'wave after better wave' until the last wave which was 'so advanced that it could appreciate the benefits of submitting to American rule'. Views like these resonated with the progressive nationalist opposition to Marcos.

Scott held a Bachelor's degree from Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, a Masters from Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 and a PhD from the University of Santo Tomas
University of Santo Tomas
The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, The Catholic University of the Philippines , is a private Roman Catholic university run by the Order of Preachers in Manila. Founded on April 28, 1611 by archbishop of Manila Miguel de Benavides, it has the oldest extant university charter in the...

. Scott's dissertation was published by the University of Santo Tomas Press as Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History in 1968. A revised and expanded second edition was published in 1984. He debunked the Kalantiaw
Datu Kalantiaw is a mythical Filipino character who was said to have created the first legal code in the Philippines, known as the Code of Kalantiaw, in 1433....

 legend in this book. Datu Kalantiaw was the main character in a historical fabrication written in 1913 by Jose E. Marco. Through a series of failures by scholars to critically assess Marco's representation, the invented legend was adopted as actual history.
As a result of Scott's work, Kalantiaw is no longer a part of the standard history texts in the Philippines.

Scott's first well known academic work is The Discovery of the Igorots. This is a history of the Cordillera mountain region over several centuries of Spanish contact, constructed from contemporary Spanish sources. Scott argues that the difficulties the Spaniards encountered extending their rule in the face of local resistance resulted in the inhabitants of the region being classified as a 'savage' race separate to the more tractable lowland Filipinos. Scott adopted a similar approach in Cracks in the Parchment Curtain in which he tries to glean a picture of pre-colonial Philippine society from early Spanish sources. This project was criticized by the Asianist Benedict Anderson
Benedict Anderson
Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson is Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government & Asian Studies at Cornell University, and is best known for his celebrated book Imagined Communities, first published in 1983...

 who argued that it yielded a vision of Philippine society filtered through 'late medieval' Spanish understanding. Scott was aware of this limitation, but argued Spanish records provided glimpses of Filipino society and native reaction to colonial dominion, often incidental to the intention of the Spanish chronicler, which were the cracks in the Spanish parchment curtain.

In 1994, the Ateneo de Manila University
Ateneo de Manila University
The Ateneo de Manila University is a private teaching and research university run by the Society of Jesus in the Philippines. It began in 1859 when the City of Manila handed control of the Escuela Municipal de Manila in Intramuros, Manila, to the Jesuits...

 posthumously gave Scott the Tanglaw ng Lahi Award for a lifetime "spent in teaching not only in the classroom, but also the outside world by means of the broad reaches of his contacts and communication, and most of all through his hundreds of published scholarly articles and inspirationals which continue to disseminate and teach honest Philippine history to succeeding generations of Filipinos."

One of Scott's last full scale books was Ilocano Responses to American Aggression. The foreword was written by Joma Sison, the head of the Philippine Communist Party
Philippine Communist Party
The original Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas was established on November 7, 1930, and it is now often called PKP-1930 to separate it from its far more known splinter-group, the Communist Party of the Philippines.-History:The party was established on November 7, 1930...

. The EDSA revolution, which coincided with the publication of the book, obscured the fact that the foreword had been written while Sison was in jail.

Harold C Conklin's Biographical Note and Bibliography lists 243 extant written works by Scott from 1945 until those posthumously published in 1994.


Scott died unexpectedly on 4 October 1993, aged 72, in St Luke's Hospital, Quezon City, following what was considered to have been a routine gall bladder operation. He was buried in the cemetery of Saint Mary the Virgin, Sagada, Mountain Province on 10 October 1993.

See also

  • Datu
    Datu is the title for tribal chiefs, sovereign princes, and monarchs in the Visayas and Mindanao Regions of the Philippines. Together with Lakan , Apo in Central and Northern Luzon, Sultan and Rajah, they are titles used for native royalty, and are still currently used in the Philippines...

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