Tuesday, July 25, 2017

J. M. Beattie (1932-2017)

We are sharing the sad news that John Maurice Beattie, legal historian of crime in 18th-century Britain, has died of cancer at the age of 85. The University of Toronto History Department has posted this statement in his memory. From Professor Beattie's obituary in the Toronto Globe and Mail: 

"John Beattie was born and raised in Dunstan, England, near Newcastle upon Tyne. During the war he and his sister were temporarily relocated to the countryside. After the war Joyce married an American serviceman and the entire family moved to Napa, California. 

John attended the University of San Francisco where he studied history and captained the soccer team. In 1988 he was inducted into the USF Sports Hall of Fame. John earned a master's degree from the University of California at Berkeley. It was there that he met Susan, the love of his life. 

In 1957 they moved to the UK where Susan taught school while John earned his PhD from King's College Cambridge, under the supervision of J. H. Plumb. 

In 1961 he accepted a teaching position in the History department at the University of Toronto, the start of a thirty-five year career. In the late 1960s John turned his academic attention to the subject that was to define his ground-breaking research, publishing career and reputation: crime and the administration of justice in 18th century England. He published many articles along with five books including his seminal work, 'Crime and the Courts in England, 1660-1800. 'In the 1970s, John's burgeoning academic pursuits happily coincided with the creation of the U of T's Centre of Criminology, the beginning of what was for John a significant, decades-long association; one that included two stints as the Centre's Director. 

Yet as important as research and writing were for him, John's great love was teaching. He believed this was a university's most essential mission and the truest test of what its core values should be: openness, curiosity and rigour. 

John always took immense pleasure in the work of his graduate students and joy in all their successes, academic and otherwise. His spirit of generosity towards them extended to colleagues in the field, to his and Susan's neighbours and to their many friends, and their families. Above all else John's credo was fairness. He insisted on it in his own assessment of the past and lived it in his dealings with the people in his life, no matter how long or short his association with them. 

Upon his retirement in 1996 John was a U of T University Professor Emeritus. He and Susan spent many wonderful summers at their cottage on Pencil Lake where John played business manager, transportation director and chief glaze-consultant for Susan Beattie Pottery, happily assuming the supporting role for Susan's pottery-making that she had devoted to his academic work. It was a lifelong partnership in all the best ways. 

It was at Pencil Lake, too, that he fell in with a group of golf buddies, found later in life, whose Tuesday rounds on courses across the Kawarthas gave him so much pleasure. John's work drew praise and many awards but his most truly important successes came elsewhere: devoted husband, loving father, nurturing grandfather and loyal friend. Cremation has taken place. 

There will be a celebration of his life in the fall academic term, details to be announced."