Canadian history scholar Thomas G. Barnes dies

Thomas Garden Barnes, a professor emeritus of history and law at the University of California, Berkeley, and a leader in the development of Canadian studies in the United States, died on March 9 after suffering a stroke. He was 79.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon credited Barnes with increasing the understanding of Canada in the United States and with promoting closer political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries.

“Tom was a once-in-a-generation scholar and visionary who witnessed decades of Canadian history and politics firsthand,” Cannon said in a letter to the family following Barnes’ death. “He had the ear of prime ministers and ministers, as well as ambassadors and diplomats on both sides of the border, and he used his influence with integrity in the pursuit of scholarship and teaching.”

With Barnes’ death, Cannon said, Canada “has truly lost a devoted advocate and friend.”

Barnes also was known for his commitment to scholarship about military history and to the UC Berkeley’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). He was a charter member since 1976 of the faculty committee for the campus’s ROTC program and the program chair from 1990 to 2005.

Born April 29, 1930, in Pittsburg, Penn., Barnes served in an artillery unit with the Pennsylvania National Guard from 1946 to 1949. In 1952, he graduated from Harvard College magna cum laude, earning an A.B. degree in history. He received a doctorate in history from Oxford University in 1955.

Barnes was a member since 1952 of Lincoln’s Inn of London, one of four institutions to which barristers in England and Wales belong.

He joined the faculty of Lycoming College in Williamsport, Penn., as an assistant professor of history in 1956. Barnes took a position as a lecturer in history at UC Berkeley in 1960, becoming an assistant professor in 1963. In 1965, Barnes became a lecturer in law at UC Berkeley, advancing to full professor of history in 1967. He became a professor of law at UC Berkeley in 1974.

From 1982 to 2005, he served as co-chair of UC Berkeley’s Canadian Studies Program. Barnes became co-director of the program in 2006, the same year he retired from teaching.

His academic research was wide-ranging and included military history from the 17th to 21st centuries, early law in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, development of legal institutions in California after 1849, early Nova Scotia law, Canadian defense, early English legal history and Tudor-Stuart English history. He was the author or editor of numerous articles and books.

Barnes was honored in 2009 with the 20/20 Vision Award of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States. Other honors included being named a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies in 1962 and receiving a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial fellowship in 1970. The Canadian government gave Barnes a Canadian Studies Faculty Enrichment Grant in 1984 and in 2005 at UC Berkeley, the Thomas Garden Barnes Chair of Canadian Studies was established in his honor. Barnes received the Alexander Prize of the Royal Historical Society in 1958 and was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society since 1959.

He served as councilor, president and vice president of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States, and belonged to the academic council of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., since 2004.

Barnes also was a California correspondent and vice president of the Selden Society, the only learned society and publisher devoted entirely to English legal history, and was an editor with the English National Archives in London since 1963. He was project director of the Anglo-American Legal History Project of the American Bar Foundation from 1965 to 1986.

Barnes received two endowed lectureships, serving as the Ewing Lecturer at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania in 1979 and as the Neale Lecturer with University College in London in 1986.

He was co-founder of St. Joseph of Arimathea Anglican Theological Seminary in Berkeley. His hobbies revolved around the outdoors and included fishing.

He spent almost every summer at his family home, known as the Gardenia Lodge-Savary House, built in 1820 on a 230-acre site in Nova Scotia by his great-great-grandfather, a first-generation Nova Scotian.

Barnes is survived by his wife of almost 55 years, Jeanne Marie Barnes of Berkeley; daughters, Claudine Huntington of Divide, Colo., and Francoise Bonnell of Prince George, Va.; son, Marc Barnes of Philomath, Ore.; and six grandchildren. Barnes’s son, Demas, died in infancy in 1961.

An Anglican funeral mass was held for Barnes on March 13 at St. Peter’s Church in Oakland. Interment will be this summer at the Anglican Cemetery in Digby, Nova Scotia, where, family members said, most of his ancestors are buried.