Douglas Cole (historian)

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Douglas Lowell Cole (December 9, 1938 – August 18, 1997) was a Canadian historian specializing in art and cultural history, particularly the cultures of Northwest Pacific Coast.

Douglas Cole was born at Coulee Dam, Washington. His father was a construction worker and labor union activist. His mother taught elementary school. Cole graduated from Whitman College, obtained an MA in international relations from George Washington University and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. In 1966, he started teaching history at Simon Fraser University near Vancouver, British Columbia, where he ultimately became Chair of the History Department from 1978 to 1980 and President of the Faculty Association from 1986 to 1988.

As a student, Canada was the focus of both Cole's master's thesis ("The United States and Canadian Diplomatic Independence, 1918-1926") and his doctoral dissertation ("John S. Ewart and the Canadian Nation"). He originally specialized in diplomatic and political history, but later became fascinated by the cultural history of the Northwest Pacific coast. Cole was among the first scholars to write on the history of art, literature, and intellectual thought in settler society. He also wrote seminal, often highly critical, studies of the impact of European values and institutions on the indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest coast that are widely acknowledged as exemplary texts for their painstaking research, clarity of exposition, and provocative insights. Cole died suddenly of from heart failure while gardening in his North Vancouver home.

Cole's best known publications were Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast Artifacts, which dealt with the acquisition, sometimes unscrupulously, of Northwest Coast native art by world-renowned museums, An Iron Hand Upon the People: The Law Against the Potlatch on the Northwest Coast, [with Ira Chaikin] a study of the legislation outlawing the traditional native giving away ceremonies, and Franz Boas: The Early Years, perhaps the first in-depth biography examining the development, influences, and early struggles of the man commonly referred to as the father of modern anthropology.

A review of Cole' work and contribution to the cultural and intellectual history the Northwest Coast can be found in Wendy Wickwire's " 'The Quite Impossible Task': Douglas Cole and the Eucumenical Challenge of British Columbia's Cultural History" BC Studies (The British Columbian Quarterly) 125/126 (Spring/Summer 2000),5-32.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Cole, Douglas (1985) Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast Artifacts. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Cole, Douglas, and Ira Chaikin (1990) An Iron Hand upon the People: The Law against the Potlatch on the Northwest Coast. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre; Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Cole, Douglas (1998) Franz Boas: The Early Years, 1856-1906. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre; Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Cole, Douglas and Maria Tippett (1977) From Desolation to Splendour: Changing Perceptions of the British Columbia Landscape. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin.