Distinguished Professor Emeritus
John Richard English has had a multi-faceted career which includes activities as an author, educator, and politician. He was born in 1945 in Plattsville, Ontario and attended Waterloo Oxford District High School, then the University of Waterloo (B.A., 1967) and Harvard University (A.M., 1968; Ph.D., 1973). He has been a Professor of History at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario since 1971 and in the course of his academic career has been Director of the Centre on Foreign Policy and Federalism, 1988-1993, Director of International Studies, University of Waterloo, 1988-1991, and Chair of the History Department, University of Waterloo, 1989-1991. He is currently seconded from the university to the Centre on International Governance Innovation of which he is founding Executive Director. It is the largest Canadian think tank devoted to the analysis and discussion of international affairs.
John English’s political career began when he ran as a candidate in the 1988 Federal election, although he had long been active in both the Kitchener Provincial and Federal Liberal Associations and had served as president of both organizations at different times. In October 1993 he was elected as Member of Parliament for Kitchener, Liberal Party of Canada, served one term to 1997. During that time he filled several roles: Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister Responsible for Public Service Renewal, 1993-1996; Member of the Special Joint Committee Reviewing Canadian Foreign Policy, 1994; Member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, January 1994-1997 and its Vice-Chair 1996-1997; Chair, Sub-committee on Sustainable Human Development, 1996-1997; Vice-president, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE-PA), 1996-1997.
John English’s many honours and awards include a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (1967), Harvard Graduate Prize Fellow (1968-1971), Senior Killam Fellow (1985-1987), Fellow, Royal Society of Canada, (1991- ), D. Litt. (Honoris Causa), Wilfrid Laurier University (1992) as well as several literary and professional awards. His first book The Decline of Politic: the Conservatives and the Party System won honourable mention for the John A. Macdonald Prize of the Canadian Historical Association. His biography of Lester Pearson later won that price. The Pearson biography also won the Canadian Author’s Association Prize for best non-fiction book in Canada, the Dafoe Prize for best Canadian book on Canadian affairs, and was finalist (twice) for the Trillium Prize and the Lionel Gelber Prize. The first volume of his Trudeau biography Citizen of the World (2006) won the Univ. of British Columbia Canadian Biography Prize for best Canadian biography; the Amazon.ca award for best biography, the Dafoe Prize, and was a finalist for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, and the Donald Smiley Prize of the Canadian Political Science Association.
John English’s professional activities have been many and varied and include active involvement in organizations, on boards and committees. These include the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA), of which he was the President from 1990-1992. Prior to that time he was Vice-President and President of the K-W Branch between 1979 and 1986, Chair of the Library Committee 1983-1984, Chair of the Research and Publications Committee 1984-1987. He served as Vice-President of the CIIA from 1988-1990 and returned to the board in 2006. He also filled several roles in the Canadian Historical Association, including Member of Council 1976-1979, Chairman of the Joint Committee of the Canadian Historical Association-American Historical Association, 1975-1978, Chair of the Canadian Historical Association Committee on the Historical Profession, 1976-1981. Dr. English was Policy Chair and board member of the K-W Branch of the United Nations Association of Canada, 1981-1985, was a member of the Board and of the Publications Committee of the Champlain Society from 1982-1993, and was on the Research Advisory Board of the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security. In 1981 he was on the Advisory Committee of the Royal Commission on Conditions of Foreign Service. In 1980, and again in 1989-1993 he was on the Advisory Committee of the Department of External Affairs History Project, and from 1984 to 1987 was a Board member of the Canadian Committee on the Second World War. He served as the Chair of the Board of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (2000-4) during which time the Museum built the Canadian War Museum. He currently serves on the board of the C.D. Howe Foundation, the Atlantic Council, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, and resigned in 2007 after three years of service on the Pearson College board.
John English has served on the editorial boards of several historical publications, including the International Journal, 1984-1988, 1991-1992; Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historiques, 1976-1990 and the Canadian Historical Review, 1983-1989. He served as editor of the Canadian Historical Review from 1986-1989.
In March of 1998 John English was appointed by the Honourable Sheila Copps, Minister of Canadian Heritage, to lead a review of the mandates and future roles of the National Library and of the National Archives.
Community involvement in Kitchener-Waterloo has always played an important role in Dr. English’s activities, whether as a speaker to numerous local groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary, Church and Seniors Clubs, or as a member of numerous local organizations including Waterloo Historical Society, Kitchener Rotary, Concordia Club, and the Unity Committee. He has served as a Board Member of the Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation, 1990-1991 and as a Board Member of the Kitchener Citizens Committee, 1989-1990. Rotary International has awarded him the Paul Harris Fellowship three times. He has been named one of the 150 outstanding contributors to the City of Waterloo.
John English is the author of The Decline of Politics, 1977 and 1993; Arthur Meighen, 1977; Robert Borden: His Life and World, 1977; Years of Growth, 1986; Shadow of Heaven: The Biography of Lester Pearson, Vol. 1, 1989; The Worldly Years: The Biography of Lester Pearson, Vol. 2, 1992 ; co-author of Canada 1900-1945 with Robert Bothwell and Ian Drummond, 1987; Kitchener: An Illustrated History with Ken McLaughlin, 1984 and 1996; Canada Since 1945 with Robert Bothwell and Ian Drummond, 1981; co-editor with J.O. Stubbs of Mackenzie King: Widening the Debate, 1977; with N. Hillmer of Making a Difference, 1992; Citizen of the World, vol.1 2006, and several other edited works.
He is a Member of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a lifetime member of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs.