Desmond Morton OWN R.I.P.

Written by  //  September 6, 2019  //  Absent Friends  //  No comments

Desmond Morton, historian and McGill University professor, dead at 81
Author who chronicled Canada’s history remembered for intellect, sense of humour
(CBC) Morton authored more than 40 books on Canadian history and was a frequent commentator in the media on current events.
In a reflective essay written in 2011, he ruminated about an epitaph for himself: “History is another word for experience.”
He was careful not to claim that phrase as his own, but wrote that “my versions of history have been powerfully influenced by my own experiences as a student, a soldier, a writer and especially as an unashamed political activist and an academic administrator.”
About the experiences of his life, he wrote, “I wish, when it is almost too late, that I had sought out more of them.”
The son of a brigadier-general, Morton was born in 1937 in Calgary and moved often as a child, following his father to military postings around the world. He served 10 years in the military himself, retiring as a captain in 1964.
Morton was a graduate of the Collège Militaire Royal de Saint-Jean and the Royal Military College of Canada, as well as Oxford University and the London School of Economics in the U.K.
He was founding director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, and professor in McGill’s history department from 1998 to 2006.
He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996.
Ed Broadbent, former leader of the federal NDP and a longtime friend, said what set Morton apart from other historians was his talent as a writer and his interest in telling the stories of regular people.
“He was never interested in the so-called great men of history but rather the working people, the soldiers and their families, always including the women,” he told the McGill Reporter at Morton’s 80th birthday celebration in 2017. “Inclusive and unpredictable, he always reached out to people with whom he personally disagreed.”
In an interview Thursday, [His wife, Gael] Eakin said Morton, to whom she was married for 24 years, had “a brilliant mind; he also had a great sense of humour.”
She said he loved his students, and the couple would often host them in their home.
“He was a very hard worker,” she said. “He always lived for his work.”
Eakin said Morton had developed dementia in recent years and had a bad heart.
By the end, she said, “he could remember the War of 1812 and he could remember the First World War, but he couldn’t remember what day it was or people.”
How terribly sad.

He was just shy of his 82nd birthday. The giants are leaving us too soon.

There are no details yet at https://dignitymemorial.com/en-ca/obituaries/montreal-qc/desmond-morton-8846432 but already some wonderful tributes.

Obituary: McGill prof Desmond Morton remembered as ‘a historian of the people’
He was one of those rare people who commanded absolute respect in academia, as well as widespread popularity amongst students
(Montreal Gazette) After serving as principal of Erindale College at the University of Toronto, Morton became the founding director of the Institute for the Study of Canada at McGill. He taught at the school from 1998 to 2006. Even after his retirement, Morton continued to serve the university as a professor emeritus.
“He ensured McGill was on the map as a leader in Canadian studies,” said Antonia Maioni, the dean of the Faculty of Arts at McGill. “He put us on the map with his hard work, his larger-than-life personality, and also because he really believed in the mission, which was to have Canadians understand each other.”
“He was one of those rare people who commanded absolute respect in academia, as well as widespread popularity amongst students,” said Elsbeth Heaman, a history professor who briefly served as director at the Institute for the Study of Canada. “When you were around him, you really felt like you were doing the kinds of things that scholars did when they were at their best.”
Heaman emphasized that Morton possessed a relationship with his students that was unparalleled in the department of history.
“He was a historian of the people, for the people,” she said. “He got students to go out and write the histories of their local communities. He made them historians of their own lives, of their own worlds. They had never been asked to do anything like that.”
During his time at McGill, Morton wrote several books on the history of political and industrial relations in Canada. However, he is perhaps best known for his prolific works on Canadian military soldiers, many of which were mandatory reading for students at McGill.
“He was a man of a different era,” said Straw, who also served as the director of the institute for five years. “He could tell you everything you needed to know about the War of 1812, but he didn’t know what The Simpsons was.”

If you did not see it at the time, you might enjoy this from the McGill Reporter almost exactly two years ago.
Desmond Morton: Historian to be feted for setting “aspirational standard for Canadian Studies”
In celebration of the career of historian Professor Desmond Morton, founding director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, there will be a public lecture marking his 80th birthday entitled “French Canada’s Impact in the First World War” on Thursday, Sept. 14

That WN table in the Cloud is getting crowded, but I know David is enjoying the company.

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