A Professor’s Life: Michael Bliss (1941-2017)

A Professor’s Life: Michael Bliss (1941-2017)

Ontario and indeed the whole of Canada suffered an incalculable loss with the recent passing of Michael Bliss, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, where for over 34 years he attained much deserved prominence and accolades as an inspiring teacher of Canadian history. The highly esteemed historian was regarded by his peers as a giant in his field — a valuable member of a select group generally hailed as our best recorders of Canadian history — the likes of Donald Creighton, Ramsay Cook, Desmond Morton, and J.L. Granatstein.

Bliss was born during the Second World War in the small Ontario town of Kingsville, population circa 2,500. His nostalgic memories of the 40s and growing up in what he charmingly termed “Mariposa” on Lake Erie as found in his delightful memoir, Writing History: A Professor’s Life (Dundurn, 2011) make delightful reading. Shortly after publication it was my privilege to introduce Michael Bliss to a sizeable audience at the Leaside branch of the Toronto Public Library. Everyone present was totally enthralled by his riveting presentation — the expected norm whenever Professor Bliss addressed U of T students — or any other audience for that matter!

Michael Bliss was a modest individual of great intellect and integrity whose books on Canadian business, politics, and medical history brought him international acclaim. Fortunately for both the man himself and the rest of us, Bliss never forgot his boyhood small-town roots. Now that he is gone, I know instinctively that there will be numerous times ahead, when I shall turn to his final book for reminders of a truly decent man and savour once more both his wit and wisdom. In what is known as a back cover “blurb,” noted Canadian media personality, Andrew Coyne, ended his endorsement of Writing History as follows: “… this is a gently unsparing look at a time, a place and a life well lived.” Well put!

Rob Leverty
Executive Director
The Ontario Historical Society

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