North American Scholar
COCHRANE, Charles Norris
BA University Coll U Toronto, 1911; BA Oxford (Corpus Christi Coll), 1913; MA, 1919
- Professional Experience:
Lctr anc hist University Coll U Toronto, 1913-4; asst prof, to prof anc hist University Coll, 1919-45; dean of residence, 1924-45; fell Royal Soc Canada, 1941; consultant to Dept Justice, Ottawa, during World War II
David Thompson, Explorer (Toronto, 1924); This Canada of Ours, with W S Wallace, (Toronto, 1926); Thucydides and the Science of History (Oxford, 1929); Christianity and Classical Culture (Oxford, 1940); “The Mind of Edward Gibbon,” U of Toronto Quarterly 12 (1942-3). Collected works: David Beer (ed.), Augustine and the problem of power: the essays and lectures of Charles Norris Cochrane (Eugene OR: Cascade Books, 2017)
Cochrane was both a productive scholar and a stimulating teacher, with a remarkably strong and vivid personality. In his Thucydides he demonstrated the influence of scientific concepts, in particular those of the Hippocratic School, on the historian's view of human nature and action. In Christianity, his magnum opus, he traced the political and social failure of the Roman Empire to a defect in the logic of classical naturalism, which failed to reconcile the concepts of order and process; in the theology of St. Augustine he found a corrective for this defect which for the first time made possible a true philosophy of history. His achievement was summarized by Harold Innis as “. . .the flowering of a long tradition of classical scholarship at Toronto and in Oxford.... A robust independence of word and phrase reflected his personal background. His concern not only with the rôle of thought in Graeco-Roman civilization, but also with its reflection in the work of its great historians, enabled him to make the first major Canadian contribution to the intellectual history of the West.” Unfortunately, his early death prevented the publication of his Yale lectures on St. Augustine (1945) and completion of his projected works on the historian Carl Becker and on Greek jurisprudence.
CJ 41 (1945-6) 179; Phoenix 1 (1946) 1-2; PRSC (1946) 83-7; Hugh Cochrane (son).
Image credit: University of Toronto Archives
- Author: R. M. H. Shepherd