The Blog November 11, 2020

Raymond Grew: A Tribute

Credit: University of Michigan

Raymond Grew (1930-2020): A Tribute

The Toynbee Prize Foundation regrets to announce that Raymond Grew, a Board of Trustees member of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, former President of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, and a leading scholar of global history, social history, and comparative history, passed away in September 2020. Grew, who was Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Michigan, was 90.

Originally from California, Prof. Grew earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard University in 1951, 1952, and 1957, and taught as a professor at Princeton University before joining the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he was named the Hudson Professor of History. He also held distinguished positions at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris in 1976, 1987, and 1990, and for more than twenty years was the editor of the journal Comparative Studies in Society and History.

He is known for his interdisciplinary comparative approach to the histories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in France and Italy—with an eye to the US—but his influence and expertise stretched farther and deeper still: touching education and religion; political development; childhood; the role of food in global history; the social construction of minorities around the world; and the methodology of comparative history. His work, over his lifetime, has offered us a stirring, diverse interpretation of human culture.

The current President of the Toynbee Prize Foundation (TPF), Dominic Sachsenmaier, who took over the post from Prof. Grew, writes: “Raymond Grew was deeply committed to the study of global history, and he made an invaluable impact on the Toynbee Prize Foundation, especially his endeavors to broaden its outreach to scholars around the world. We deeply appreciated him as a great scholar with a kind heart, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude.” Toynbee Prize Foundation Vice-President Darrin McMahon added that “In addition to his many scholarly accolades and his enthusiasm for the Toynbee Prize Foundation and its mission, Ray was a generous colleague and mentor, who gave freely of his time and good cheer. He was instrumental in bringing me into the orbit of the TPF, and I feel very grateful to have been able to work with him and to share our mutual passion for European and global history.”

Toynbee Prize Foundation Trustee Peter Stearns similarly adds: “Ray Grew was an accomplished and perceptive scholar who helped guide many students and colleagues toward global awareness. He was also an exceptionally warm human being. He was both mentor and friend.” Trustee Philip S. Khoury also reflected: “Raymond Grew was a distinguished historian of France and Italy deeply committed to understanding globalization from the vantage of history.  He once wrote ‘when historical analysis meets globalization, history gains the excitement of a hot topic and ideas of globalization gain the past often denied them.’ He was a delightful colleague to work with on behalf of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, always gracious and generous with his contributions.”

The Toynbee Prize Foundation expresses its deepest sadness for the passing of our colleague, who did so much to nuance our practice of global history, to define it as a field, and to further our understanding of the varied but connected human life worlds within.

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