- 1925-1960 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Ralph Flenley was born in Liverpool England on 2 January 1886. He was educated at the University of Liverpool (MA, 1908) and New College, Oxford University, from which he received a B.Litt in 1910. He immediately began writing; his first two books, published in 1911 and 1916, were Six town chronicles of England, and A calendar of the register of the Queen’s Majesty’s Council in the dominion and principality of Wales and the Marches of the Same (1535), 1569-1591. In 1913 he was appointed lecturer in history at the University of Manitoba, working under Chester Martin, the first professor of history there. His academic career was interrupted by the First World War, in which he served primarily with the Royal Field Artillery. He was twice mentioned in dispatches, in 1917 and 1918.
In 1920, on the recommendation of Professor Archibald Hope Young of Trinity College, he was hired by the University of Toronto, with the rank of Associate Professor, where he taught Modern European and Modern German history courses and historiography. He was promoted to the position of full professor in 1927 and in 1952 he succeeded Chester Martin, who had moved to the University of Toronto in 1928 as chair of the Department. Professor Flenley went on leave for the first six months of 1955, retiring on 30 June, with the title of Professor Emeritus. He was succeeded as head by Donald Creighton. Professor Spencer took over Professor Flenley’s History 4b course, “Europe since 1815”, and became his heir in the sense that he developed courses on German history. Professor Flenley moved back to England where he resided at Summerhill, Parkgate, Cheshire, until his death on 21 March 1969.
Professor Flenley was a prolific author, with at least twelve books and numerous articles to his credit. Makers of Nineteenth Century Europe, his first major book after his arrival in Canada (the previous year, his slim Samuel de Champlain: founder of New France, had appeared in W. Stewart Wallace’s little series of “Canadian Men in Action”), was published in 1927. Modern Europe and the World followed in 1931. Of his several books on Germany and modern Europe, the most popular was Modern German History, published in 1953. It went through numerous editions and reprints in four languages in the subsequent 20 years. Professor Spencer assumed responsibility, at Professor Flenley’s request, for the later revisions of this book, producing new editions in 1964 and 1968. The concluding chapters of the third (1964) edition appeared as Triumph and catastrophe, 1939-1945 and The German phoenix, 1945-1963. One of Professor Flenley’s last projects was a small book on Anglo-German relations, for which he wrote an unfinished manuscript in 1959-1960.
Professor Flenley also wrote about his adopted country. Before coming to Toronto, he wrote an article about the history of the University of Manitoba. His booklet, Samuel de Champlain: Founder of New France, was published in 1925 as part of W. Stewart Wallace’s series, Canadian Men of Action. Three years later, his translated and edited edition of François Dollier de Casson’s History of Montreal, 1640-1672, appeared. Essays in Canadian history presented to George M. Wrong on his eightieth birthday, published in 1939, celebrated the long-time head of the Department of History.