Wednesday, December 16, 2009

John English leaves CIGI

Recent note here of the travails of historians who become university presidents now has a sequel of sorts. According to a Globe and Mail story, historian John English has abruptly parted company with CIGI, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the think-tank in Waterloo, Ontario, that he was running for benefactor Jim Balsillie.

English's reputation as a historian rests on his fine biographies of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau and other works in political history. But his public policy credentials are impressive too. He was a Liberal MP, then an advisor on cultural policy and foreign policy, chair of the board of the Museum of Civ and the War Museum, and a Canadian representative on United Nations and landmines matters. Lately he has also been General Editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

CIGI, the largest public-policy think tank in the country, was a big mandate, and the Globe reports English left the University of Waterloo to devote himself to it. If English doesn't have what CIGI wants, well, what does CIGI want?

Regrettably the Globe story has little but speculation about causes for English's departure because most of those in the know are acting more like logrolling bureaucrats than scholars and intellectuals. As the Globe puts it:
Mr. English's departure shocked many in the academic and public service foreign policy communities, none of whom would comment on the record - and one of whom refused to comment even off the record - because their institutions either receive or are eligible to receive funds from CIGI and CIC.
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