Associate Professor of Government and Asian Studies Henry Laurence prefaced his Oxford education with more than just a typical English prep school. He spent a year in between high school and college working on a container ship bound for Australia. This adventure was just the first of many in his life as he also worked in investment banking and ranched cattle.

Laurence grew up along the southern coast of England, frequently moving from town to town because his father was in the Royal Navy. For the most part, however, he was rooted in Goring, which “had the same feel as Brunswick—you could go to the shops and meet people to gossip.” He attended an all-male naval school before taking a gap year preceding college.

“Before I went to Oxford, I worked as a deckhand on a container ship and then I got my passage to Australia to work on sheep and cattle ranches,” said Laurence. “I was in the Indian Ocean de-rusting container lashings. That was a fantastic experience. I strongly recommend to people to take a year off.”

When he did return to Oxford, Laurence pursued studies in philosophy, politics and economics. At Bowdoin, he teaches in both the Government and Legal Studies and Asian Studies departments but he did not become involved with scholarship in the latter discipline until his post-graduate work.

“That’s one of the big differences between England and Bowdoin: in England you’re terribly specialized so there just wasn’t opportunity to study language or anything outside of your three A-levels, which is a shame.”

After graduation, Laurence spent time working for the Bank of Tokyo in London, which piqued his interest in the languages and politics of Asia and made him realize that a career in bond trading was not for him.

“Investment banking was huge amounts of fun. It was new and an intellectual challenge. This was [before] a lot of mechanization, and so there was kind of a human element at the time that was like a game. It was fun, but I don’t think it was very responsible.”

Now settled in his career as a Bowdoin professor, Laurence enjoys spending his free time watching the Premier League and following his favorite scheming character, Thomas, on Downton Abbey. 

“I gave up on House of Cards because it doesn’t touch the original British one,” said Laurence. “I binge watched Breaking Bad though, and like Better Call Saul.”

Laurence is also something of a gourmand. 

“I cook. It’s what I spend my time thinking and reading about,” he said. “Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is what I’d cook for myself on a desert island. And I’m getting really into Indian curries.” 

His favorite Bowdoin meal?

“Shepherd’s pie, obviously,” he said. My greatest regret at Bowdoin, honestly, is that they serve up the shepherd’s pie with the eggplant parmesan and you just can’t do both. Well you can, but not in public.” 

Laurence hopes one day to have a bronze statue of himself erected outside of Thorne to commemorate all the time he has spent there.

Although Laurence admits to cold-calling people in the classroom, he wants students to know that he does it to prepare them for the real world. 

“It’s better to be uncomfortable now in class than later at work or in a town hall meeting,” he said. “Don’t take it personally. Where I came from, that is the standard, to be very confrontational and critical. It doesn’t matter what you think, it’s about the argument.”

Regarding other in-class practices, Laurence has been known to recount the dating misadventures of his youth in class. 

“I had one student who kept a tally of my stories,” he said. 

Unfortunately, Laurence declined to share any of these with the Orient. 

Professor Laurence lives in Brunswick with his wife and children, who persuade him to Nordic ski and attend Arctic Monkeys concerts.