James R. Scobie, History: San Diego


1929-1981
Professor

James R. Scobie, who died on June 4, 1981, left behind a legacy of fine scholarship and a host of friends and admirers. A New Englander by upbringing and schooling, he spent many years living, researching and writing about the Latin American experience. Having launched his life as a scholar at Berkeley, and then having traveled east to Indiana University to establish his reputation, he had come west again in the 1970s to join the History Department at the University of California at San Diego. A scholar who cared about teaching and students, he spent hours making certain each lecture had something significant to offer. As a colleague you could always count on “Jim” to carry his share of the bureaucratic burden and to live congenially with his peers. He seldom lost his temper and almost always judged others by the standards he applied to himself.

The author of a substantial body of scholarly books and articles, Scobie had led the way in the development of the field of Latin American urban history. An expert on Argentina, he left behind books on Buenos Aires, its capital city, and its relationship with the countryside. His Argentina: A City and a Nation (1964), and interpretative survey, talked not merely of politics and economics but of literature and writers. Almost at the same time, he published Revolution on the Pampas: A Social History of Argentina Wheat (1964), a monograph that added a new dimension to the city and country relationship. The book, Buenos Aires, Plaza to Suburb, 1870-1910 (1974), a sophisticated analysis of the rise of a city, put Scobie in the front ranks of urban historians of Latin America. At the time of his death, he was completing a comparative study of four provincial Argentine cities, again a landmark in Latin American urban history.

But, to underline again, Scobie was more than just a scholar and teacher. A dedicated academic, he gave much of his time to the profession, always attempting to better the teaching of history, its writing and the quality of journals in the field. Known for his sober and commonsense approach, colleagues sought him out for membership in committees, of the American


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Historical Association, the Conference on Latin American History, the Pacific Coast Council on Latin American Studies, the Latin American Studies Association, the Pan American Institute of Geography and History and the Organization of American States. In the 1970s, he was chairman of CLAH, the national association for historians of Latin America in the United States. While serving on committees, participating in sessions at meetings of scholars, helping to develop programs and to provide leadership, he found time to collaborate with the Hispanic American Historical Review, the American Historical Review and the Latin American Research Review.

First and foremost a fine human being, James R. Scobie will be remembered in the hearts of his friends for his loyalty and help eagerly given to them. With his death, the field of Latin American history suffered the loss of a fine colleague, scholar and teacher and, above all, a friend.

Aaron V. Cicourel Paul Drake Ramon E. Ruiz