Remembering René Durocher

Academic historian was a passionate scholar of Quebec history.

Written by Canada’s History Staff

Posted December 8, 2021

Canada’s History Society is saddened to learn of the passing of René Durocher, an influential and respected Quebec historian and former member of Canada’s National History Society’s board of directors.

Durocher, who taught history at the Université de Montreal for nearly forty years until his retirement in 2000, co-authored several important works on the political and intellectual history of Quebec.

“Durocher was one of the most influential historians of Quebec of his generation,” said Brian Young, professor emeritus at McGill University and a former member of Canada’s History Society’s board of directors. “He was co-author of the two volume Histoire du Québec contemporain. This widely used text represents the modernist vision of a generation of Québécois historians who came of age in the Quiet Revolution.”

Born in 1938, Durocher as an influential advocate in the expansion of mandatory history courses in Quebec high schools. Durocher began his post-secondary teaching career in the 1960s while still a student at the Université de Montreal.

In later years, as director of the History Department and as Associate Dean, he helped build one of Canada’s strongest history departments. He also taught or lectured at other universities in Canada, as well as in France and Israel.

Durocher joined the board of directors of Canada’s National History Society in 1999 and served in the volunteer position until 2006.

Deborah Morrison, a former president and CEO of the History Society who served during Durocher’s tenure on the board, praised his contributions to the history society and to history at large.

“Rene Durocher was an important contributor to Canada’s History (then known as The Beaver) during his tenure as a board member,” she said. “He was a firm believer in ensuring the magazine included space for the voices and perspectives of French Quebec historians and writers and was proactive in reaching out to recruit contributors to both the editorial effort as well as the broader mandate for the organization.

“But what I will remember most is his very positive nature, his tremendous sense of humour, and that infectious shake-all-over laugh we would hear at board meetings. He truly made history — both the exploration of it, as well as the making of it — a real pleasure.”

Joe Martin, past president of Canada’s History Society, said: “René joined our board when I was still chair. René was personable, intelligent, and professional. His knowledge and contacts were invaluable to a new history society not yet in its teen years. He will be sorely missed.”

Durocher was a past president of the Canadian Historical Association and a member of the Royal Society of Canada. He was also known for his engaging personality and wit. “One of my fondest memories of René is at a meeting of the history society with provincial historical societies in Quebec City,” Martin said. “We worked hard but played a little, too, and took time to watch (on TV) Canada defeat Belarus in hockey.”

Durocher was eighty-three.

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