Monday, March 19, 2018

Blair Neatby (1924-2018) historian, RIP

I'm half starting to wish I had never started noting the deaths of Canadian historians. There are too many, and lately I seem to know too many of them. Case in point: Blair Neatby, historian of politics, Saskatchewan, French-English relations, and much else, whom I did not know well but never met without pleasure, who died in Ottawa March 11.  I talked to him once for a Beaver column about the Saskatchewan politician and '50s Minister of Agriculture Jimmy Gardiner:
Mackenzie King biographer Blair Neatby once interviewed Gardiner at his Lemberg farm. (“He was very down to earth and unpretentious, a genuine farmer.”) Neatby recalls a politician unintimidated by bureaucrats. Neatby’s uncle was a civil servant and deputy minister of agriculture and when Gardiner did not like his advice, he would simply say, “Remember, Ken, I’m the minister.” That attitude shaped Gardiner’s reservations about the Canadian Wheat Board, which he saw as bureaucratic and beyond the control by farmers; he preferred farmer-run co-ops.
Meanwhile, Lawyers, Guns, and Money notes another death: Alfred Crosby, historian of the "Columbian exchange" and pioneer of both environmental and Atlantic history.

Update, March 20:  Allan Williams:
The obit doesn’t include his parents’ names and there is no mention of Hilda Neatby. I am curious whether and how they might be connected.
Hmm.  Her entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia suggests she was his aunt, as it links to her brother Kenneth, who seems very likely to be the civil servant Blair Neatby mentions in the quotation above.  But the connection had never occurred to me.  A remarkable prairie family, no?
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