Jude Howell

Published on 1 May 2022

It is with great sadness that former IDS Fellow Professor Jude Howell died peacefully on Friday the 29 April, at the Martlets Hospice in Brighton.

IDS Research Associate, Richard Crook, who worked with her closely wrote:

‘Jude Howell was one of the UK’s leading authorities on the politics of China, specialising particularly in issues of labour and Trade Union relations, and civil society, as well as a comparative political scientist of great distinction. After a first degree in Linguistics at the University of York, Jude lived in Germany for some time and made her first visit to China; these experiences sparked her interest in the politics of development, and she took the original two-year MPhil in Development Studies at IDS, followed by a PhD at IDS on Chinese politics, supervised by Gordon White.

After her first post at the University of East Anglia Centre for Development Studies, she joined IDS in 2000, and became Team Leader of the Governance Team. This was a job she carried out with her usual combination of humanity and efficiency.  By the time she arrived back at IDS she was already established as a respected China scholar, having published (with Gordon White and Shang Xiaoyuan) In Search of Civil Society: Market Reform and Social Change in Contemporary China (1996), and China Opens its Doors: the Politics of China Opening Up (1993). And she established her credentials as a comparative political scientist and development specialist with the publication (with Jenny Pearce) in 2001 of Civil Society and Development: a critical exploration. At the same time, she made a major contribution to the IDS’s large scale Ford Foundation-funded global project on civil society, 1999-2003, some of it embodied in Governance in China (ed) 2003, and (with Diane Mulligan) Gender and Civil Society (2004).

In 2003 she was offered a Chair at the LSE and became the Director of the Centre for Civil Society from 2003-2010. During this period, she developed and managed the largest international comparative project ever funded by the ESRC, the Non-Governmental Public Action Programme, 2004-9, which involved a team of 37 researchers working across 46 countries, deliberately chosen to span the ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ worlds.  Her comparative interests at this time also encompassed the issue of the ‘war on terror’, collaborating with Jeremy Lind of the IDS, resulting in two publications: Counter-terrorism, Aid and Civil Society: Before and After the War on Terror (2009), and Civil Society Under Strain: Counter-Terrorism Policy, Civil Society and Aid post-9/11 (eds) 2009).  She continued over the next decade to publish on the issues of authoritarian rule, particularly sub-contracting services to NGOs, state-labour relations (with Tim Pringle), democratisation and social unrest in China.  Jude never stopped writing and publishing, right into the final year of her life.

Jude was a multi-talented person who not only worked very hard but lived a very full social life with an enormously wide circle of friends and many interests outside of her work. She loved to keep fit and was still doing her morning run even in the months before her final illness.

She was a talented linguist, and spoke not just fluent Mandarin, but also German and some Hindi and Portuguese. She especially loved to read German novels including crime thrillers, and swapped books with the few friends who also spoke German, and watched all the German TV series which appeared on British TV.  She loved to cook and invite people to tea served with her amazing home-made cakes; and her big parties at her house in Rugby Road, to which all friends were invited, were legendary. All her friends and colleagues will miss her terribly.’

Her former colleague, Diane Kingston (formerly Mulligan) also writes,

‘Jude was a fantastic mentor to me and gave me the confidence to write and publish academically.  She always supported me with warmth, sincerity, and joy.  Jude was dynamic yet grounded and always self-effacing.  Her guiding light continues to shine brightly and steers me in the right direction.’