William Henry Scott (historian) - Writer and Lecturer

Writer and Lecturer

Scott observed the Igorot 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, a Masters from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of Santo Tomas. 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 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 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 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. 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.

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