Desmond Morton

Desmond Morton
Place of Birth: 
Calgary, AB
First Year Employed at Erindale College: 
Department / Division: 

The great thing that history does for you is to allow you to see into other people’s worlds.

At Erindale, you could do something to make your ideas a reality; I don’t think you can do that at a bigger place.

Desmond Morton

By the time eminent historian Desmond Morton arrived at Erindale in 1970, he had already served in the Canadian Forces, worked for the New Democratic Party and earned a prestigious Rhodes scholarship that, he humorously notes, allowed him to “learn the theory of what I’d been doing.”

Canadian history during the First World War has been the focus of his research career, but Morton also taught courses about subjects such as nationalism, trade unionism and collective bargaining.

He served a three-year term as Erindale’s vice-principal, humanities and became the vice-principal, academic, under his administrative mentor, Paul Fox. Morton succeeded Fox as principal in 1986, while continuing to write and teach.

“I was keen on getting things published,” says the prolific author of more than 40 books and myriad scholarly articles. “I also continued to teach at least one course a week; how better do you see students?”

Morton’s own involvement in municipal politics made it clear to him that it was important for the campus to be more involved with the local community, and he set about cultivating relationships with those who had reasons to care deeply about its success: Mississauga politicians and businesspeople.

“I got to know the mayor, Hazel McCallion, and other people who mattered, people who could contribute to Erindale’s success,” he says. “I tried to make Erindale as much a part of the community as possible, because that was its base. Erindale depended upon the community, and I hope to some degree I helped it along.”

It was during Morton’s tenure that the Kaneff Centre, with its large lecture hall and art gallery, as well as classroom and office space, was built. Morton also oversaw the creation of two thriving joint programs with the Sheridan Institute of Advanced Technology and Learning: the theatre and drama program, and the art and art history program.

“If students want a career in the arts, there’s no better place to get both practical and theoretical knowledge,” he says.

By the time Morton left Erindale for other academic opportunities in 1994, he had created some history of his own, leaving behind strong community ties and a campus that was better than he found it.


Selected Awards:

Canadian Forces Decoration, 2004; bestowed upon members of the Canadian Forces who have completed 12 years of military service

Officer, Order of Canada, 1996; recognizing outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation

Fellow, Royal Society of Canada, 1985; the highest Canadian honour a scholar can achieve in the Arts, Humanities and Sciences


Selected Books:

Une histoire militaire du Canada, 2007; discusses the conflicts that occurred on Canadian soil, as well as Canadian participation in conflicts abroad

A Short History of Canada, 2001; explores the links connecting Canada’s past, present and future; an eighth edition that includes the Harper years is upcoming in 2017

A Military History of Canada, 1992; now in its fifth edition, maintains that Canada is a country that has been shaped, divided and transformed by war