Publication Date

December 1, 1996

John B. Wolf

At a time when courses on early modem Europe are standard offerings in the curriculums of hundreds of North American colleges and universities, it is perhaps difficult to recall that only a few decades ago there were almost no American specialists, apart from some scholars concerned with religious topics, working on continental European history between the Renaissance and the 18th century. When John B. Wolf, who died on April 22, 1996, came to the University of Minnesota in 1943 to establish the field of 17th-century Europe in a history department already distinguished for its Europeanists, he was a pioneer. In 1951, when his landmark study, The Emergence of the Great Powers, 1685-1715, appeared in the influential Rise of Modern Europe series edited by William L. Langer, only Wolf, Garrett Mattingly, and William F. Church were preparing significant numbers of graduate students in 17th-century Europe. In the course of his career John Wolf supervised over two dozen doctoral dissertations. His students (inevitably, the “Wolfpack”) and the generations they have trained in turn have shaped the study of European history on this continent. Through his scholarship and his teaching, John Wolf exerted enormous influence in establishing 17th-century France as a vital research field for historians in the United States and Canada during the past two generations.

John Wolf was born in Ouray, Colorado, on July 16, 1907. His father, a largely self-educated immigrant from Germany, imparted to his son a love of books and knowledge. John received B.A. and MA. degrees from the University of Colorado and attended Northwestern University before enrolling in the doctoral program at the University of Minnesota. There he worked under Lawrence D. Steefel and acquired an appreciation of diplomacy and high politics that was to remain a permanent quality of his scholarship. His dissertation was published as The Diplomatic History of the Bagdad Railway (1936; reprinted 1973). Wolf was first employed by the National Park Service before beginning his teaching career in 1934 at the University of Missouri in Columbia. There he wrote France: 1815 to the Present (1940; second edition published in 1963 as France: 1814-1919), a book that remained a standard work in the field for decades.

In 1943 Wolf was offered a position at the University of Minnesota, with the stipulationthat he concentrate on Europe of the ancient regime. He was drawn to accept this challenge because he sought to understand more about the origins of the modern military-bureaucratic state that had become the major determinant in people’s lives everywhere during his lifetime. Wolf plunged into an extraordinarily disciplined reading program and in less than a decade produced his Langer series volume, one of the most solid and suggestive in the series. The prestige of that key book was the foundation for Wolf’s international reputation in the early modem field.

Wolf had a talent for clear, crisp prose and was a prolific author. The best example of his gifts is his magisterial biography, Louis XIV (1968). In this work Wolf portrayed with sensitivity and insight the king’s personal life and the impact of that life on European politics. His richly textured portrait of Louis, largely drawn from archival sources, was deeply affected by the concepts of developmental psychology that he was exposed to by his Wife, Theta H. Wolf, through her work as a professor of psychology. The book, which also appeared in an Italian edition, was widely acclaimed and has had a pervasive influence on studies devoted to the reign of the Sun King.

John Wolf's students were inspired by the man as well as his scholarship. His wit, passion for history, and zest for life were infectious. These personal qualities and his scholarship explain the eagerness of students to study with Wolf at the University of Minnesota, and then, after 1966, at the University of Illinois, where he helped build the newly created Chicago Circle campus. John was an exacting, sympathetic and devoted master to his many graduate students. He and Theta memorably hosted generations of students at their longtime summer retreat on Bone Lake in Wisconsin. His students in turn honored him with a conference at the Newberry Library in 1976 and again when the Society for French Historical Studies met in Minneapolis in 1987.

The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship and two Guggenheim fellowships, Wolf was also a fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library and was honored by the French government in 1979 as a Chevalier des Palmes Academiques. In 1969-70 Wolf served as president of the Society for French Historical Studies and hosted the annual meeting on the Chicago Circle campus. Until his retirement in 1974, he continued to supervise doctoral students both there and at the University of Chicago. Long before he left teaching, the field of study John Wolf pioneered on this continent had gained a prominent place in academic life.

Wolf continued his scholarly work during retirement, publishing The Barbary Coast: Algiers Under the Turks, 1500-1830 (1979; Arabic translation, 1986) and venturing into the history of the Seminole Indians in Florida, where he and Theta maintained a home for over 20 years. In 1995, declining health made it advisable for John and Theta to move to a retirement community near Syracuse. John died there after a long battle with leukemia. In addition to Theta, he is survived by his son, Dr. John K. Wolf, and his daughter-in-law, Mitzi Wolf, as well as three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Joseph Klait
United States Institute of Peace

John T. O'Connor
University of New Orleans

I.D. Koval'chenko

Ivan Dmitrievich Koval'chenko died on December 13, 1995, at the age of 72. A World War II veteran, Koval'chenko came to Moscow from a village on the Russia-Ukraine border and devoted himself to a lifelong study of history. He eventually became a professor and chair of the Department of Source Study at Moscow University, a position he held from 1966 until his death. In 1984, he became a full member of the Academy of Sciences in which he held various high administrative positions. For almost 20 years, he also served as editor in chief of the leading Soviet historical journal Istoriia SSSR.

All things considered, I. D. Koval'chenko enjoyed more power and influence than any Soviet historian of his time. He enjoyed this power partly because of the control that the Communist Party of t1}.e Soviet Union exercised over the teaching and writing of history, and his capacity and willingness to work with the party, and partly because of the extreme centralization that prevailed (and still prevails) in all fields of scholarship in Russia, but also because of his dedication, energy, and sense of purpose. Some American scholars, mostly specialists in Russian history, distrusted Koval'chenko, supposing that a power broker in the Soviet system could not have clean hands or a serious commitment to raising the level of historical scholarship. Westerners who worked directly with him, however, and who were primarily cliometricians or specialists in more traditional forms of economic history, held him in high respect, supposing that he did all that a conscientious historian could do in the political and cultural landscape in which he operated.

Koval'chenko's primary achievements lie in two fields. He was a zealous exponent and practitioner of the application of "quantitative methods to history. His second monograph, Russkoe krepostnoe krest'ianstvo (1976), occupies a place in Russian historiography similar to that held by Conrad and Meyer’s The Economics of Slavery (1964). Always a Marxist, Koval’chenko preferred physical measures to monetary ones, and brought great erudition and ingenuity to bear on the resolution of problems for which most historians and economists in the West would reflexively turn to monetary indices. All of his major research focused upon the transformation that seems even more important after the fall of the Soviet Union than when he first took it up: the gradual, painful, and still incomplete modernization of Russia’s agrarian economy.

Koval'chenko did more than anyone else to abate the isolation that had been imposed on historians in the USSR since the early 1930s. He tirelessly promoted and participated in bilateral and multinational conferences, publication projects, and international exchanges, particularly with Americans. Between 1970 and 1990, probably no Soviet social scientist took more trips abroad than Koval'chenko, and certainly none was a more skillful negotiator. But he remained the same in Milan or New Orleans as in Moscow, apparently blind to the temptations of Western consumer culture. He was much more alert to the problems that the post-Soviet order presents to historians than to the opportunities it offers. Yet as Russian society struggles to arrive at an understanding of its past, Koval'chenko's focus on its most important economic sector, agriculture, and on the associated problems of the methodology of long-term analysis seem destined "to carry significant analytical weight.

One of the most important channels through which Koval'chenko's influence will endure is certainly the work of his students and the curriculums they developed at Moscow State University. The history department's programs in historical methodology and economic history particularly benefited from his influence. At the time of his death, poor health had encouraged him to resign his department chairmanship, and he intended as well to give up his administrative posts at the academy, devoting himself entirely to research on the Russian peasantry and to teaching. To epitomize his lifework in sentence, it may be said that Koval'chenk brought out the elements of modernity and developmental potential in the Russian peasant economy without minimizing the elements of backwardness. His body of work will remain of great importance to historians and economists interested in the problem of modernization, and not just in Russia.

Daniel Field
Syracuse University

Don C. Rowney
Bowling Green State University

John Duffy

John Duffy died at Baton Rouge on June 20, 1996, of heart failure at the age of 81. A longtime member of the American Historical Association and a frequent participant in its annual meetings, he was interim editor of the American Historical Review in 1975-1976. He was the Priscilla Alden Burke Professor of History at the University of Maryland at College Park from 1972 until his retirement in 1982. A distinguished historian of medicine, public health, and American social history, he was the author of 11 books and many scholarly journal articles and book chapters. Among his leading works were Epidemics in Colonial America (1953), Sword of Pestilence: The New Orleans Yellow Fever, Epidemic of 1853 (1966), A History of Public Health in New York City 1625-1966 (2 vols. 1968, 1974), The Healers, A History of American Medicine (1976, rev. ed. 1979), and The Sanitarians, A History of American Public Health (1990). He was also editor of The Rudolph Matas History of Medicine in Louisiana (2 vols., 1958, 1962). He received the Louisiana Library Association Literary Award for the first volume of the Matas history, the American Public Health Association’s Arthur Viseltear Award for The Sanitarians, and the American Association for the History of Medicine’s Continuing Lifetime Achievement Award in the History of Medicine.

Professor Duffy was an energetic and popular teacher. At a time when other senior faculty were teaching only advanced courses, he insisted on teaching one class each semester of the American history survey, and despite the fact that he graded on a stiff curve and gave few As, his course was popular because of his lively and informative lectures. His graduate students have distinguished themselves as teachers and scholars, especially in the history of medicine. An outgoing personality with a ready wit, he had a wide circle of friends in the historical profession, in his special field of the history of medicine, and in the various universities where he taught.

Born into a working-class family at Barrow-in-Furness, England, John Duffy grew up in Detroit and was naturalized in 1939. After working for several years in an automobile factory, he decided he needed a college education and worked his way through Louisiana State Normal College in 1941. He received an M.A. at Louisiana State University in 1943 and a Ph.D. in history at University of California at Los Angeles in 1946. He taught from 1946 to 1953 at Southeastern Louisiana College/Northwestern State College in Louisiana, from 1953 to 1960 at Louisiana State University, from 1960 to 1965 at the Graduate School of Public Health of the University of Pittsburgh, from 1965 to 1972 at Tulane University in both history and medicine, and at the University of Maryland at College Park, for 10 years. He received research grants from the American Philosophical Society, the United States Children's Bureau, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Pan American Health and Education Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. He served on the executive council of the Southern Historical Association, was president of the Washington Society, for the History of Medicine and the American Association for the History of Medicine, and was active in the leading American historical associations. After retirement, he moved to Baton Rouge, served as an adjunct professor at the Tulane Medical School, wrote From Humors to Medical Science: A History of American Medicine (rev. ed., 1993), and was some 300 pages into his autobiography at the time of his death. His fatal heart attack occurred while en route to an Elderhostel rendezvous in Antarctica, one of the few places on earth he had not yet visited. His warm personality, directness, and example of superb scholarship and teaching have inspired colleagues in academe and in the historical profession.

Louis R. Harlan
University of Maryland at College Park

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