Charlotte Erickson: Meticulous historian of migration (obituary)





Charlotte Erickson was a superb historian, a marvellous person, a great teacher and a very influential exponent of American society, past and present, to a British audience. For two years at Vassar College in New York State, for 27 years at the London School of Economics and for a further seven at Cambridge University, she enthusiastically taught history as a social science, with special reference to the Anglo-American experience.

From 1952, she lived primarily in England, acquiring a very English husband (actually half-French) and subsequently two distinctly English sons, but she always retained her unmistakably American characteristics. Interestingly for a historian of migration – her central specialism – she thought it important for her children to be brought up in one settled place, and for many years they lived in the same north Islington house, not far from Highbury, the home of Arsenal Football Club. From her mother she acquired her passion for music; her passion for Arsenal came from her sons.

Erickson was born in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, in 1923, where her father was a Swedish Lutheran minister. She once said, with great perception, that the date of one's birth was the most important factor in one's life, far more important than class, gender, place of origin, or even parentage. Erickson herself was born into a generation of women who were coming onto the job market just as vast numbers of men were occupied elsewhere during the Second World War. Academic openings for women also expanded, with part-time job opportunities and graduate assistantships on a new scale enabling them to pay their way through graduate school.


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William Mandel - 7/24/2008

I can't agree on the importance of date of birth. Parentage, specifically the influence of my father, determined my political views. I, now 91, have been a political activist prominent as an opponent of Sen. Joe McCarthy, and was a scholar of Soviet affairs in consequence of a year spent there at fourteen when Dad wanted us to emigrate to that country and I attended Moscow University. Some may find my autobiography, Saying No To Power, of interest.