Henry “Harry” George Keith, less widely known than his wife, Agnes Newton Keith, was an English agriculturalist and conservationist who played a significant role in the administration of North Borneo before and after World War II. As the Conservator of Forests and Director of Agriculture, he was responsible for overseeing and implementing sustainable agricultural and forestry practices in the region, which was then under British colonial rule.
His work involved the exploration and documentation of North Borneo’s rich biodiversity, promoting conservation efforts, and developing the agricultural sector to benefit the local economy. Keith’s efforts were crucial in establishing foundations for environmental conservation in the region, a legacy that has continued to influence practices in Sabah today.
Harry Keith’s life took a dramatic turn during World War II when he, along with his wife Agnes and their young son, George, were interned by the Japanese. The family’s experiences during their internment were later chronicled by Agnes in her book “Three Came Home”. After the war, Harry returned to his position and continued his work in Borneo, contributing to the post-war reconstruction and development of the territory. His personal and professional life in Borneo, while not as publicized as that of his wife, was nonetheless pivotal to the region’s mid-20th-century history.