Robin Winks: An Appreciation

Article excerpt

Robin W. Winks, 1930-2003, was a pioneer in the development of Canadian Studies in the United States. He was a founding member of ACSUS and served on the Board of Editors for this journal. After graduating from the University of Colorado in 1952, Robin went as a Fulbright scholar to New Zealand, where he earned an MA in Maori Studies from Victoria University. After returning to the United States, he earned a second MA at Colorado and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. His dissertation, "Canada and the United States: The Civil War Years," first published by The John Hopkins University Press in 1960, became a seminal book in Canada-U.S. relations. Robin joined the faculty of Yale University in 1957 and remained an active and vital force there for nearly half a century, until his death last April.

Long before I met Robin at the America's Society in New York some twenty years ago, I had admired his writing about Canada. In the mid eighties he arranged for me to spend two years at Yale with an appointment in Political Science, and as Chairman of Canadian Studies. To watch him in action was exciting, an encounter with him, stimulating and purposeful, a letter or even a simple note from him, elegant.

He was a man of many parts. He introduced me to the world of detective and mystery writing. He introduced me to the world of lecturing on cruise ships. He introduced me to the papers of Benjamin Franklin at Yale, and instructed me in the extraordinary role which Franklin played in Canadian history. His writings about Canada were perceptive and wise. As a pioneer in Canadian Studies, he played an important role in stimulating other American universities in this field.

This is not the place for detailed discussion of his scholarship about Canada, but let me make one brief point. Robin believed in a comparative approach to history, and he applied this methodology to much of his writing about Canada. Some Canadians raised their eyebrows when he told us in one of his essays, "The history of Canada can be written only in the context of the Canadian-American relationship." But he was correct. He was a great teacher and the perspective he brought to his work has not only enriched Canada, but is all the more important in today's increasingly interdependent world.

His writings about Canada represented only a fraction of his enormous and eclectic output. …