Stephen H. E. Clarkson (21 October 1937 – 28 February 2016) was a prominent Canadian political scientist, scholar, and a University of Toronto professor of political economy. A liberal-left Canadian nationalist, he did much research and writing on developing and protecting the Canadian economy and identity.
Born in London, England, Clarkson grew up on a farm outside of Toronto, Canada. He attended school at Upper Canada College and became a Rhodes Scholar in 1958. In 1959, he received a B.A. from the University of Toronto for a degree in Modern History and Modern Languages (French and Russian), and an M.A. from the University of Oxford for a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1961. In 1964, he was awarded his Doctorat de Recherches from the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Sorbonne, Université de Paris for his dissertation L'analyse soviétique des problèmes indiens du sous-développement (1955-1964). In addition to French and English, Clarkson was also proficient in Spanish, Italian, Russian and German.
University of Toronto
Clarkson became a lecturer in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Toronto in 1964, assistant professor in 1965, associate professor in 1968, and a professor in 1980. He was both awarded tenure and appointed to the Graduate School in 1968. Much of his research, writings and courses focused on an analysis of the Liberal Party, Canadian economic and cultural development, and continental and international trade. He also concentrated on the evolution of North America as a continental state, and the impact of globalization on Canada, specifically in regard to NAFTA and the WTO.
Clarkson was known for his dedicated and inspiring teaching, taking his students on international study trips to learn firsthand about other political systems. It was on such a research trip to Portugal with his students where he passed away after catching pneumonia. He also provided opportunities for his students to co-author papers with him and have them published in academic journals. In 2004, he was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Award from the Faculty of Arts and Science.
Other Academic Appointments
Clarkson has held various fellows and invited scholar positions at institutions worldwide. Early in his career he was a Senior Fellow at Columbia University Research Institute on Communist Affairs (1967-68). In 1995-1996 he was the Jean Monnet Fellow, European University Institute, Florence and did two separated stints at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2000-2003). In 2006 he became a Senior Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation.
Clarkson was married to Adrienne Clarkson (née Poy), (broadcast journalist and former Governor General of Canada) from 1963 to 1975. When the marriage ended, Stephen Clarkson retained custody of their two children Kyra and Blaise. In 1978, he married journalist and writer Christina McCall who would also become his partner in research and writing, co-authoring the two-volume award winning biography on Pierre Trudeau, Trudeau and Our Times. McCall had one daughter from her former marriage with Peter C. Newman, Ashley McCall whom Clarkson adopted. Christina McCall passed away in 2005. In 2014 he married Nora Born, a musicologist he met while studying at the Goethe Institute in Freiburg, Germany. The couple traveled extensively during their years together and split their time between Toronto and Germany until Clarkson’s death in 2016.
Common to many Canadian university faculty in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, Clarkson was active in formal politics, a role he felt enhanced his academic work. This was the time of student protests, sit-ins and teach-ins on campuses throughout North America. Clarkson was a member of the Sunday Circle, a group of intellectuals and activists whose discussions led to the founding of the City of Toronto Liberal Association in 1968 as well as a broader regional organization, the Toronto and District Liberal Association. In 1969, Clarkson was the mayoral candidate for the City Liberals. While he lost the election to William Dennison, for the next decade he was continually involved in politics at the municipal, provincial and federal level, mainly in his capacity to research and formulate policy at all levels. He was Chair of the Policy and Research committee for the Liberal Party of Ontario and in this capacity was active in leadership races, policy conventions and in both the 1971 and 1975 provincial elections in which Liberal Leader Bob Nixon lost to Conservative William Davis. For the 1975 election in particular, Clarkson was formally part of the Nixon Campaign as a member of the Policy and Platform Committee. The Policy Research Group under Clarkson’s direction was tasked with providing content used for major speeches and candidates’ material; they also answered research requests from candidate campaign offices.
Activism and professional groups
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Clarkson’s volunteer and activism extended beyond the formal political party structure. As a left leaning political scientist, he gravitated to participatory and nationalist organizations. He was an active member and played leadership roles in such groups as the Committee for an Independent Canada, Praxis Research Institute for Social Change, and the academic centric University League for Social Reform. From 1965-1979 he was on the Editorial Board for The Canadian Forum and held board positions on the Ontario Welfare Council (Director, 1968-69) and the Social Planning Council of Metro Toronto (Director, 1969-72). As a member of the Canadian Political Science Association he held various positions include Secretary-Treasurer (1966-67), Programme Chairman (1969-70) and as representative on Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council, Publications Committee.
Research and publications
A prolific writer and researcher, Clarkson’s publications, among numerous academic papers, addresses, and news articles, include Dependent America? How Canada and Mexico Construct US Power (2011) with Matto Mildenberger; A Perilous Imbalance: The Globalization of Canadian Law and Governance (2010) with Stepan Wood; Does North America Exist? Governing the Continent after NAFTA and 9/11 (2008); The Big Red Machine: How the Liberal Party Dominates Canadian Politics (2005); Trudeau and Our Times Vol. 1: The Magnificent Obsession (1990) and Vol. 2: The Heroic Delusion (1994) with Christina McCall; The Canadian-American Relationship: Uncle Sam and Us: Globalization, Neoconservatism, and the Canadian State (2002) and Canada and the Reagan Challenge (1982). He was also commissioned to write a history of Canada’s federal election campaigns starting in 1974. These election histories formed the basis of his book The Big Red Machine (2005).
Honors and awards
Stephen Clarkson was awarded numerous research grants and awards throughout his long and active career in academia and political writing. In 1990, volume one of Trudeau and Our Times, co-written with his second wife, Canadian political writer, Christina McCall, won the Governor General Award for Non-Fiction. He was the recipient of a Killam Senior Research Fellowship (1999-2001), a Canada-US Fulbright Scholarship (1999-2000), and was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2010. In 2013 he was the recipient of the Konrad Adenauer Research Award conferred by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, in recognition of his academic work promoting collaboration between Canada and Germany.