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Barrows, David P. (David Prescott), 1873-1954. OAC

 
 

 

Biographical History

David Prescott Barrows was born in Chicago on June 27, 1873. The family moved to California in 1874, and Barrows was reared on a ranch in Ventura County. After his graduation from Pomona College in 1894, he received his M. A. degree from the University of California in 1895 in political science and his Ph.D. degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1897. Particularly interested in the life and customs of the American Indians, he spent almost every summer during the period 1890-1899 in research work among the tribes of southern California and the Colorado desert, and the thesis for his doctoral degree was entitled, The Ethno-Botany of the Coahuilla Indians of Southern California.

After teaching history for two years in the state normal school in San Diego, he was appointed superintendent of schools for Manila in 1900 by William H. Taft, president of the Philippine Commission. Later he became chief of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes of the Islands, and for the next two years he was largely engaged in reconnaissance of the little known areas of the Philippines. In 1903 he was appointed general superintendent of education for the Islands and completely reorganized the educational system.

Returning to the U.S. in 1909, he was appointed professor of education at the University of California in January 1910 and in August of the same year, Dean of the Graduate School. In 1911 he succeeded Bernard Moses as professor of political science and in 1913 was appointed Dean of the Faculties.

During World War I, Barrows served as a member of the American Commission for Relief in Belgium. When the U.S. entered the war, he volunteered for military service, was commissioned a major of cavalry, and was on active duty until 1919, serving in the Philippines as intelligence officer, and, in that same capacity, with the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia. Although Barrows returned to teaching at the University of California in 1919, he continued his association with the military, serving with the U.S. National Guard until 1937, when he retired with the rank of major general.

In December 1919 Barrows was elected president of the University of California, occupying that position until June 1923 when he resigned and spent the next year on sabbatical leave, traveling in Africa, visiting Timbuktu and crossing the Sudan. Returning to the University in 1924, he became chairman of the Department of Political Science and continued teaching until his retirement in 1943.

His many public services included membership on the Board of Trustees of Mills College, the California State Commission on Rural Credit and Land Colonization, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, and the Board of Trustees of California College in China. In World War II, unable to qualify for active service, he became consultant to the Secretary of War and the Office of Strategic Services.

After his retirement from the University faculty, he devoted his energies to writing syndicated newspaper articles, The World in Review, for International News Service and doing radio commentary sponsored by the Union Oil Company of California.

His publications include A History of the Philippines (1903), A Decade of American Government in the Philippines (1915), Government in California (1925) and Berbers and Blacks (1927), and many contributions to professional journals and magazines.

He died of a heart attack on September 5, 1954, at the age of 81. His papers were given to the University Library shortly after his death by his family and were transferred from University Archives to the Manuscripts Division in 1966. His daughter, Mrs. Ella Hagar, also made an addition to the collection in 1966.

From the finding aid for David P. Barrows papers, 1890-1954 (Bancroft Library)

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