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Comité international des sciences historiques

Necrology -Theodore Cardwell Barker

Theodore Cardwell Barker, Emeritus Professor of Economic History at the University of London, died on November 22, 2001, in Faversham, Kent, at the age of 78. He was President of the International Committee of Historical Sciences (ICHS/CISH) from 1990 to 1995. His term at ICHS coincided with a period of transformation of the organisation, trying to rejuvenate its structures and modes of action. T. C. Barker played a role in these changes.

Born in St. Helens, near Liverpool, on July 19, 1923, T.C. Barker atttended school there before taking is MA at Jesus College, Oxford. Moving to Manchester University, he received his PhD in 1951. An economic historian, his first research focusses on the transformation of a town during the Industrial Revolution. Later, he studied industrial processes, more specifically glassmaking, and turned to history of transport. He became a leading authority in Britain in that field with his noted books on the history of roads, automobile and London transport. He was interested in oral history and is one of the founders of the Oral History Society. He was married to Judith (Joy) Pierce in 1955.

He spent his career mostly in London and at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He started teaching at the London School of Economics from 1953 to 1964 (Lecturer, then Reader in Economic History). He then went on to the new University of Kent at Canterbury, of which he was a founding member, being its first Professor of Economic History (1964-1976). In 1976, he was back at the London School of Economics, taking the London University Chair in Economic History. He decided to retire in 1983 and was named Emeritus Professor of Economic History at the University of London. His energy and the wide scope of his interests induced him to accept numerous responsibilities in various associations. Secretary of the British Economic History Association from 1960 to 1986, he was President from 1986 to 1989. He was Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1963 and President of the British National Committee of Historical Sciences from 1978 to 1993. He was also President of the Oral History Society from 1973 to 1977.

T. C. Barker came to ICHS through his involvement as President of the British National Committee. He was elected to the Bureau in 1980 for a first five-year term, was elected Vice-President in 1985 and President in 1990. At the time of his death, he was counsellor-member of the Bureau. At the beginning of his term, Theo Barker and the Vice-President Ivan Berend prepared a memorandum on the state of ICHS which proposed changes to the organisation. Published in ICHS Information Bulletin 19 (1993), this text called for modifications to the structure of the congress and for ICHS to become more active between quinquennial congresses.

These proposals were implemented, starting with the congresses of Montreal and Oslo. As for activities between congresses, the Bureau picked this up and did organise such venues. Theo Barker also wished to make historians “speak to the world”, that is bring colleagues to be more inclined to work with the media people. In addition, he was looking for ICHS to become truly international in scope and not confined to Europe and North America.

Theo C. Barker played an important part in the transformation that ICHS experienced after the Madrid Congress. In conjunction with the other members of the Bureau, he looked forward to change the ways and means of the organisation. In his farewell message (Information Bulletin 22, 1996), he took stock of the changes made and reminded ICHS of the importance of pursuing further the internationalisation of the organisation and the opening up of communications. His sound advices and infectious good humour will be sorely missed.