Vale David Martin Jones

It is with the deepest sadness that I must advise Quadrant readers of the tragic passing of David Martin Jones. David was intellectually brilliant, a good and kind man, and a great friend to Quadrant who had so much more to give the world and who will be sorely missed by so many, not least our readers.

Those who were lucky enough to attend our debate on The Populist Moment held in Sydney in early April would have seen David in fine form discussing the origins of the term populism, which was the subject of the last article that he wrote for Quadrant and will appear in the May issue.

In typically self-deprecating style, David described himself as ‘a relic of that best of educational equalisers, the British post-war grammar school system’. On his website, he wrote that he was the first child on either side of his family to go to university. 

His brilliant career began at Reading University where he graduated with honours in History and got a scholarship to study for an MA in History at McMaster University in Canada, returning to London to write his doctoral thesis on seventeenth-century political thought at the London School of Economics, under the supervision of the late, great, conservative philosopher, Kenneth Minogue. It was through Minogue that David met Jo Cohen, Minogue’s stepdaughter, who was to become his wife.

In 1989, he joined the Politics Department of the National University of Singapore, an appointment which he said terminated abruptly in 1995 when he ‘discovered that the ruling People’s Action Party did not take kindly to publishing on Singapore and Asian democratisation in a spirit of scholarly scepticism’. He then taught at the School of Government at the University of Tasmania and in 2004 joined the University of Queensland, writing on transnational violence and ideology, and the need to view international relations through the lens of realism, rather than idealism. As well as his appointment at the University of Queensland, he was a Visiting Professor in the War Studies Department at King’s College, London, and the Director of Research at the Danube Institute in Budapest.

He wrote or co-wrote 11 books with major academic publishers, most recently History’s Fools: The Pursuit of Idealism and the Revenge of Politics (2020), and The Strategy of Maoism in the West (2022). As well as writing for QuadrantThe Spectator Australia, and The Australian, his essays appeared in International AffairsComparative PoliticsOrbisInternational SecurityThe National Interest, and The Critic.

During his study of South East Asian terrorist groups, he identified the emergence of terrorist groups including Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. He also continued to publish on seventeenth-century political thought and investigated the history of Welsh radicals exiled to Van Diemen’s land in the 1830s and 1840s which Huw Edwards featured in his documentary on Wales in Australia. He was also interviewed for Death or Liberty, a documentary on British rebels sent to Van Diemen’s land as political prisoners which was produced by Tasmania’s Roar Film in 2015 and screened on the ABC in Australia and also in Ireland and Wales.

At the time of his passing, David was grappling with the most pressing geostrategic challenges facing the West, particularly relations with China. 

David passed away this morning (Australian time) in a hospital in London surrounded by his closest family and friends shortly after returning from his visit to Australia

We have lost a great man and a great friend far too soon and we are all the poorer for his untimely passing. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Jo, his stepdaughters, and all who knew and loved him. Vale David and may you rest in peace.