Loss of pioneering sociologist Ray Pahl

Article dated: 8 June 2011

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Professor Ray Pahl, the renowned and inspirational British sociologist, has died after a short illness. 

Pahl held a number of distinctions in his field and had recently received the prestigious lifetime achievement award from the British Sociological Association.

He made his name through a series of innovative research projects in urban sociology, family relationships and inequality that often combined survey and interviewing techniques. These led to publications such as Patterns of Urban Life (1970), and Managers and their Wives (1971). An extended period conducting qualitative and quantitative research on the self-contained community of the Isle of Sheppey resulted in Divisions of Labour (1984) – a key work.

Pahl was a strong supporter of the need to preserve and share research data and deposited interviews and questionnaires from most of his major projects with the UK Data Archive.

He was particularly interested in the value of qualitative data and worked closely with ESDS Qualidata in documenting, digitising and archiving his work. This has allowed the UK Data Archive to preserve a wide range of projects including material from unpublished research projects on Sheppey as well as more recent investigations into social elites and the role of friendship in social life (with Liz Spencer).

Recollections and reflections on a lifetime conducting sociology in the field have been preserved in a series of interviews Pahl gave for the Pioneers of Qualitative Research project. These give a unique insight into his interests and methods as a sociologist.

Text and audio extracts – as well as a full bibliography and listing of collections held by the UK Data Archive – may be found on the Pioneers website.