- 1921 -2004 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
1.56m of textual records (12 boxes)
0.03m of graphic material
1 audio cassette
3 files of oversized textual material
Name of creator
A.P. Thornton (1921- 2004) was former Chair of the Department of History at the University of Toronto and an internationally recognized scholar of imperial and Commonwealth history.
Prof. Thornton was born in Glasgow, Scotland and attended the University of Glasgow where he received his M.A. in 1947. During the Second World War and prior to his graduate work, he served in the British Army as a captain in the East Riding Imperial Yorkshire Yeomanry. Thornton participated in the Normandy landings and the North West Europe Campaign. At Trinity College at Oxford University he worked as a lecturer from 1948 to 1950 and following this, completed his D. Phil (1952) at the university. He went on to teach at the University of Aberdeen (1950 – 1957), and then at the University College of the West Indies he served as Professor and Chairman of History and Dean of Arts (1957-1960). It was during this period that Thornton published the influential text, "The Imperial idea and its enemies: a study in British power" (1959) that explored the impact of changing British attitudes towards the state’s colonial interests.
Beginning in 1960, Prof. Thornton began teaching in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. He served as Chairman of the department from 1967 to 1972 and retired from the University in 1987. At various points through his career Thornton accepted visiting positions and fellowships, including as the Smuts Fellow at Cambridge University (1965-1966) and visiting fellow at the Sackler Institute at Tel Aviv University (1987).
Thornton published six books during his career in addition to numerous articles which established him as seminal author in the field. In 1986, a volume of essays were written in his honour and compiled for Studies in British Imperial History: Essays in honour of A.P. Thornton. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1977. Outside of his academic work, Thornton contributed editorials and reviews to the Globe and Mail and also authored various creative works and operettas.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Fonds consists of the professional and personal records of Prof. A.P. Thornton, historian and former Chair of the UofT’s Department of History. Records document some of his publishing activity, academic work presenting and teaching, as well as aspects of his personal life including creative writing and family history. While Prof. Thornton’s administrative role at the University is not significantly reflected in the records, the material contains documentation of the professor’s work with the Presidential Advisory Board in the mid-1980’s related to divestment in South Africa. Other records include family photographs, correspondence, and genealogical research.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Records follow an imposed order as no discernible original order could be identified.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Files in Series 5 (References) are restricted for 30 years following. All other files are open.