Fonds 1612 - Harold I. Nelson fonds

Identity area

Reference code

UTA 1612


Harold I. Nelson fonds


  • 1938-2004 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

4.82 m of textual records (38 boxes)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Harold I. Nelson was born in 1919 in Brantford Ontario. After graduating with a B.A. in Modern History from the University of Toronto in 1941, he attended Cornell University where he obtained his Masters in 1942. Upon graduating, he briefly worked for Massey-Harris before taking up a position with the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa, where he worked from 1943-1945. From 1945-47, he was Public Education Secretary of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (C.I.I.A.) and then went off to pursue his doctoral studies in International Relations and Law at Columbia University from which he graduated with a Ph.D. in 1959. Throughout this decade, his association with the C.I.I.A. continued. He was editor of its main publication, International Journal from 1952-1959.

Prof. Nelson’s career at the University of Toronto started in 1949 when he was hired as a lecturer in the Department of History. He rose through the ranks to full professor by 1964. After his retirement in 1984, he continued to teach and research into the 1990s. Throughout his career, he sat on various committees and consultative boards especially in the Department of History. His most important administrative position was that of Chair of the International Studies Program (I.S.P.) from 1971-1976. Prior to this appointment, he was chair of the International Relations Committee of I.S.P.

Prof. Nelson taught both graduate and undergraduate courses in Modern European history. His specialty was modern international history with a focus on peacemaking, conflict and cooperation in reference to the First World War and Anglo Russian Relations. His only book, Land and Power: British and Allied Policy on Germany’s Frontiers, 1916-1919, published in 1963 won the American Historical Society’s George Lewis Beer Prize. Prof. Nelson received a Nuffield Fellowship in 1956-60 in order to do research on the book.

Upon his retirement in 1984, he was appointed Professor Emeritus. For the next decade, he continued to teach and do research. Throughout most of the 1990s to 2004, he worked on a second book relating to the trial of a British women charged and found guilty of sedition in Russia in 1912. This book was never completed. Prof. Harold Nelson died on March 12 2007 at the age of 87.

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Scope and content

This fonds documents Prof. Nelson’s career as a historian, teacher and scholar. While he was not a prolific writer, records in this fond indicate he was a detailed and meticulous researcher who sought to integrate his research into his course teachings. Series 3 Journals, Series 6 Research Notes and Series 7 Lecture Notes, give evidence to this amalgamation between research and classroom. As well, much of his correspondence found in Series 1 Professional Correspondence, and Series 2 Letters of Reference and Recommendations document his relationship with students both while he was their professor and later as these students graduated and applied for employment positions, grants, and/or admission to graduate school. Moreover, the extensive comments and evaluations of student work, documented again in Series 2 Letters of Reference and Recommendations as well as in Sub-Series 8.1 Marks and Comments on Student Work, show the care he took in evaluating and imparting his knowledge to students. The fact that many of his administrative positions and roles on committees tended to focus on curriculum and student experience, indicates how important Prof. Nelson considered his role as educator. These are documented in Series 9 University of Toronto Administration and Series 10 Associations and Committees.

It is important to note the records that were not kept as a result of processing this fonds. Research notes on both primary and secondary sources were only kept when the notes themselves showed some analysis of content. Since most of Prof. Nelson’s research was done before computers and much of it before photocopiers were widely available, most of his research notes were transcriptions or summarized notes from sources. These were often typed up as well and/or written onto index cards and organized into topic. Most of these types of research notes were culled from the fonds.

Records that relate to his role as editor of the International Journal were not found among his papers and so are absent from this fonds. Removed from this fonds were his files as Chair of the International Studies Program. These were accessioned as University Records see - A2009-0006.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


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Some restrictions: All Series Open, except Series 2 and Sub-Series 8-1 are restricted. See series descriptions for details.

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Related units of description

A1987-0034. Centre for International Studies
A2009-0006. International Studies Programme

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