We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Henriques, (Louis) Fernando (1916–1976), social anthropologist, was born on 16 June 1916 in Half Way Tree, Kingston, Jamaica, one of six children of Cyril Charles Henriques, an import and export merchant, and his wife, Edith Emily. His father wanted his children to have an English education and moved his family to London in 1919. They settled in St John's Wood, north London. One of Henriques's brothers, Sir Cyril George Xavier Henriques (1908–1982), became the chief justice of Jamaica; he was knighted in 1963. One of his sisters, , became an actress and broadcaster, as well as Britain's first black woman magistrate. She later described Fernando as her ‘favourite’ brother: ‘When our father brought us here, I was five and Fernando was three. We walked down the gangplank hand in hand; and that closeness remained all of our lives … All my brothers were very clever … But Fernando had a particularly brilliant mind’ (Sunday Times Magazine, 13 Sept 1998).

When Henriques's father went bankrupt in 1929 the money that had paid for Henriques's older brothers to become doctors and lawyers was no longer there for him. He was educated at a Catholic grammar school, St Aloysius' College, in Islington, and the London School of Economics. When the Second World War began his ‘immediate reaction’ was to join the armed forces: ‘There was no thought that through my colour I would be thought to be outside the conflict. My experience at the recruiting centre in Central London was traumatic. An RAF sergeant told me quite bluntly that “wogs”, that is people of non-European descent, were not considered officer material … I cannot say that disgust invaded me totally at this rejection. It was rather like being confronted with hatred by someone you loved and thought loved you’ (Children of Caliban, 3). Rejected by the RAF, he decided to defend London in another capacity, and joined the National Fire Service. He remained a fireman for three years ‘during which only one incident occurred which made me conscious of my colour. This was being told by an irascible officer that my quarters were too good for a “nigger”’ (ibid., 3–4). During air raids he found himself constantly on the alert, but there were also long periods of standing by when he could study. In 1942 he left the National Fire Service when he obtained an open scholarship to study history at Brasenose College, Oxford. In 1944 he became president of the Oxford Union and the following year he graduated with a second-class degree in modern history.

Deciding on an academic career, Henriques became a postgraduate student in anthropology and for his field work returned to Jamaica as a Carnegie research fellow and studied a community in the area from which his family had originated. In 1947–8 he was a graduate assistant in the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford and in 1948 he received his D.Phil. for a thesis on ‘The social structure of Jamaica, with special reference to racial distinctions’, and became a lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Leeds. On 15 September the same year he married Rosamund Ann Seymour (1919–1989), artist, and daughter of Francis Robert Seymour, medical practitioner. They had three sons.

Henriques's first book, Family and Colour in Jamaica, based on his D.Phil. thesis, was published in 1953. This was followed by Jamaica: Land of Wood and Water in 1957. His examination of social life in the Yorkshire coalfield was the subject of a book he wrote with Norman Dennis and Clifford Slaughter, Coal is our Life (1956). This was a fascinating record of class and gender relations in the mining community of Featherstone (renamed Ashton for the book) just after coal nationalization, and was subsequently much cited. His books on sex, Love in Action: the Sociology of Sex (1959) and Prostitution and Society (in three volumes, 1962, 1963, and 1967), brought him in touch with a large and receptive audience. His last book was Children of Caliban: Miscegenation (1974), a historical and sociological study of interracial sex and marriage which ranged across Europe, the Americas, India, and Africa. He also contributed to such publications as the Handbook of Latin American Studies and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and was editor of the Library of Sexual Behaviour (1970) and the Library of Race Relations (1971).

While at Leeds, Henriques was director of a number of sociological research projects funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. He also served as dean of the faculty of Economics and Social Studies. In 1964 he moved to Sussex University as professor of social anthropology. There he created (and fund-raised for) the Research Unit for the Study of Multiracial Societies, later the Centre for Multi-Racial Studies. From 1965 he was a member of council of the Institute of Race Relations. He was also a member of the South-East Economic Planning Council (1966–8).

Henriques's obituarist in The Times described him as someone who ‘relied on his intuition more than his scholarship’, who ‘never wrote the books his friends wished him to write’. Nevertheless he was also described as ‘a stimulating companion’ who ‘was willing to tackle any subject and to express himself with eloquence and vigour’, and ‘a warm friend and a devoted father’ (The Times, 4 June 1976). His son Julian described his father as ‘totally charming and charismatic … a huge success, intellectually and socially’ (Sunday Times Magazine, 13 Sept 1998). He listed his recreations in Who's Who as ‘bibliomania, camping sauvage, people’. He died in London of cancer on 26 May 1976 and was survived by his wife, Rosamund, and their three sons.

Stephen Bourne

Sources  

F. Henriques, ‘Coloured men in civilian defence’, League of Coloured Peoples News Letter, 21 (June 1941), 57–9 · F. Henriques, Children of Caliban: miscegenation (1974) · The Times (4 June 1976) · The Sunday Times Magazine (13 Sept 1998) · S. Bourne, Mother country: Britain's black community on the home front, 1939–45 (2010) · WWW · m. cert.

Wealth at death  

£32,054: probate, 12 July 1976, CGPLA Eng. & Wales