Obituary: Adrian Cook
Tuesday 14 February 1995
His versatility in handling very different sorts of history was matched by his lively style, mastery of detail, trenchant judgements of men, confident assessments of situations and skill in relating complex trains of events to their larger contexts. "The settlement of the Alabama Claims," he wrote, "provides a 19th-century demonstration of a disagreeable truth that has become all too obvious in the 20th century: how difficult it is to pursue a sane foreign policy in a democracy."
Cook's narrative flair made a good story out of one of the most tangled episodes in Anglo-American relations: the efforts to settle the American claim for compensation for the depredations of the Confederate States steamer Alabama, built in Birkenhead in 1862. In 1975, with solid achievement behind him, and every reason to look forward to a bright future, Adrian Cook dedicated his best work to his father: "To a signalman of the Great Western Railway 1902-1964".
Cook went from Queen Elizabeth's Hospital in Bristol to St Catharine's College, Cambridge, with an exhibition in History (1958). After gaining the J.N. Figgis Memorial Prize and a Double First in 1961, he stayed on at Cambridge to work for his PhD (1965). The award of a Rockefeller Grant Fellowship by the British Association for American Studies enabled him to do a year's research in the United States, based at Baltimore. His first post was at the University of Canterbury at Christchurch (1965-66).
It was while he was on his way back from New Zealand that the acting Head of the Department of History at Reading University, keen to put the department's teaching of American history on a sounder footing, was advised to enlist Cook, described to him as a brilliant young scholar. He promptly wrote a letter which reached its intended recipient as his ship passed through the Panama Canal. Cook remained at Reading for the rest of his career, save for a three-year spell in the US between 1968 and 1971. His well-deserved promotion to Reader came in 1975.
Cook's courses in American History, whether on the Civil War, Reconstruction, or the "Red Summer" riots of 1919, were always popular. His lectures, delivered in a carrying voice, audible at the other end of the corridor, provided one of the most characteristic sounds of the department. How far a broad West Country foundation underlay his superficially transatlantic intonation was a matter of some speculation. Certainly his speech sounded American to an untutored English ear. On first hearing his deep, booming voice seemed somewhat theatrical. This quality was the result of an early speech impediment, conquered with his usual courage and determination.
Cook was a lifelong film buff, and drew on his deep fund of cinematic lore in the humorous notices which he wrote to colleagues when Departmental Bookman, reminding those who had not done so to spend their individual book-purchasing allocations. One of these, "Happy Days on the Old Plantation", was an ebulliently cheeky missive in the manner of Gone with the Wind.
Sadly, although he continued to write readable and sometimes rebarbative reviews, Cook produced no more books after 1975. In later years he led, outside his department, an increasingly reclusive existence. Within it, however, he leaves a gap which will be hard to fill.
Adrian Edwin Cook, historian: born 7 May 1940; Lecturer in History, Reading University 1966-68, 1971-75, Reader 1975-95; died Goring 18 January 1995.
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 4 Penis size: Study revealing 'what's normal' sends international media into meltdown
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
Ayesha Ali death: Mother and her girlfriend found guilty of manslaughter of eight-year-old
George Clooney and Amal fail to get special treatment at New York restaurant
Cindy Crawford 'un-PhotoShopped' viral Marie Claire image was doctored, claims photographer
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...
£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...