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Ramsay Cook died in Toronto on July 14, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Ramsay Cook



We see Canada today through Ramsay Cook’s eyes. More than any other historian of the last half of the 20th century, he defined Canada as we now live it, a definition forged in the place and time of his youth.

“All roads lead back to his childhood on the Prairies,” maintains Donald Wright, biographer of the historian Donald Creighton, who is at work on a biography of Prof. Cook. “The Prairies were marked by pluralism, by difference. That’s the world he knew. And when he went to write history, he couldn’t write it from one perspective. It was impossible. It could only be written from multiple perspectives.”

As Prof. Cook wrote in 1967: “Instead of constantly deploring our lack of national identity, we should attempt to understand and explain the regional, ethnic and class identities that we do have. It might be that it is in these limited identities that ‘Canadianism’ is found.”

“He was a giant,” his friend and fellow historian John English concludes. At a critical moment in the life of the nation, when Canada seemed on the brink of dissolution, Prof. Cook succeeded in explaining French Canada to the English and English Canada to the French, while insisting neither encompassed the multiethnic, multilinguistic and multiracial identities of the Canadian mosaic. That vision, shared by his friend Pierre Trudeau and others who rallied to rescue a splintering nation, won through.

Beyond that, he was a beloved husband, brother, father and grandfather, colleague and teacher. In the view of fellow historian and close friend Craig Brown, who first met Ramsay Cook when they were both students at University of Toronto in 1957, “he was just a great guy.”

Prof. Cook died in Toronto on July 14, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. ...

Read entire article at The Globe and Mail


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