Lawrence W. McBride (1945-2004)

Frederick Drake and Richard Soderlund, November 2004

Lawrence W. McBride died in Normal, Illinois, at the age of 58 on May 3, 2004. A well-known historian of modern Ireland, he was also widely considered to be one of the nation"s leading authorities on history education. He taught at Illinois State University from 1986 until his death.

McBride was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 8, 1945, but grew up in Chicago. He received his BS and MA from Chicago State University. After teaching briefly in a junior high school, he resumed his studies and obtained a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1978, where he studied with Professors Emmet Larkin, William H. McNeill, and Mark Kishlansky. McBride"s dissertation provided the basis for his first book, The Greening of Dublin Castle: The Transformation of Administrative and Judicial Personnel in Ireland, 1892–1922 (Washington, D.C., 1991). He demonstrated that well before the establishment of the Irish Free State, Irish Catholics had assumed key positions in the Irish government. An exacting work of administrative history, the book also advanced a challenging rethinking about the process by which the Irish gained independence and the origins of the Irish state.

After he obtained his PhD, McBride taught at Chicago State, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northern Illinois University and also worked at the Newberry Library as the program director of the Chicago Metro History Fair and as the curriculum specialist on the Chicago Neighborhood History Project. Along with friend and mentor Gerald A. Danzer of the University of Illinois at Chicago, McBride received in 1987 the James Harvey Robinson Prize from the American Historical Association for his work, People, Space, and Time: The Chicago Neighborhood History Project, An Introduction to Community Studies for Schools (1986). McBride also wrote or was the co-author of almost 20 articles on history and social science education, including two pieces with his close friend and colleague, Frederick Drake, in The History Teacher: "Reinvigorating the Teaching of History through Alternative Assessment" (1997) and "The Summative Teaching Portfolio and the Reflective Practitioner of History" (2000). He also published a variety of curricular materials. He was especially proud of his Chicago, 1919! (1998), for which he was presented the Best CD Award by the American Association for History and Computing.

Under McBride"s leadership the History/Social Science Education program at Illinois State grew from approximately 60 majors in 1986 to around 450 today. He pioneered the use of professional development schools to train prospective teachers. The September 1999 issue of Perspectives singled out McBride"s leadership in history education: "The program at Illinois State University is especially impressive in its variety of activities and depth of involvement with the schools." Today, the department has ties to 10 high schools in Chicago, the suburbs, and central Illinois.

McBride moved to a broader university leadership role when the College of Arts and Sciences asked him to work with the College of Education to manage as campus coordinator from 1998 to 2003 the Illinois Professional Learner"s Partnership project, a $12 million grant from the United States Department of Education. He and Drake were instrumental in securing for the history department and the partnership schools in 2001, a three-year, nearly $1 million "Teaching American History" grant. McBride served as executive director of the Illinois Council for the Social Studies from 1988 to 1995.

During the 1990s McBride combined his love of Irish history with his expertise in history education and began to explore how the Irish learned their history. He was particularly interested in how interpretations of the Irish past&#151transmitted through various cultural media&#151were critical in forging modern Irish nationalist politics and identity. He wrote a series of articles that examined how prominent late-19th-century Irish illustrators and authors of historical fiction constructed popular perceptions of the Irish nation and its past. He edited two books that explored these and related themes: Images, Icons and the Irish Nationalist Imagination (Dublin, 2002) and Reading Irish Histories: Texts, Contexts and Memory in Modern Ireland (Dublin, 2003). He took particular pride in editing the correspondence among his maternal relatives: The Reynolds Letters: An Irish Emigrant Family in Late-Victorian Manchester (Cork, 1999). He traveled frequently to Ireland and forged a network of trans-Atlantic friendships with Irish historians and educators. His final illness prevented him from completing a book on the formation of Irish national identity.

His colleagues within and outside Illinois State, friends, and students are establishing the Lawrence W. McBride Scholarship Fund in memory of his achievements as a historian and educator. He is survived by his wife, Sandra; his father, Lawrence; and two children, Lawrence B. McBride and Brigid R. McBride.

—Frederick Drake
—Richard Soderlund
Illinois State University