A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, August 8, 2016

Prof. John D. (Jack) Ruedy: Historian of Algeria, Great Teacher, Mentor, Friend

No matter how many degrees one may accrue, most of us are lucky to have two or three teachers who truly formed us and our way of thinking, writing, and teaching. I was saddened to learn last week of the passing of one of the best teachers I have ever encountered, my graduate school advisor and the chairman of my doctoral dissertation committee, Emeritus Professor of History at Georgetown John D. (Jack) Ruedy. He died August 1 at the age of 89.

Professor Ruedy was a recognized scholar of the History of Algeria, and author most notably of Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation. A revised second edition brings the history into the present century.

His published work is well known among Maghrebists, and also deals with broader regional issues, but his true forte was teaching, inspiring generations of students. I first encountered him in my sophomore year as an undergraduate in a survey course on Modern Europe, and that persuaded me to take his undergraduate course on Islamic Civilization. The rest is history I guess. In graduate school his courses on the Maghreb and Islamic Spain were equally great despite a lot of reading required in French, neither then or now my strongest language. He believed in making his lectures entertaining, but he also believed in lots of assigned reading and the essential role of languages as a tool for historians.

While I think he was a little disappointed that most of his Ph.D. candidates (at least those of my era) chose dissertation subjects outside the Maghreb, he was always a positive but rigorous guide.

A native Californian, he took his doctorate at UCLA under Gustave von Grunebaum, and then took the position at Georgetown, where he spent his entire career. I am grateful for his teaching and guidance, and his friendship, and the role model he provided as both scholar and teacher. My condolences to Nancy and the children and grandchildren, and my profound gratitude.


David Mack said...

The Washington policy community has suffered from a relative dearth of North African experts. One person could not fill the gap, but Professor Ruedy tried. More than once when I was trying to pull together a panel on North Africa, he saved the day.

Jane C Gaffney said...

I remember Dr. Ruedy well for a very stimulating survey course I took while taking my Arabic language courses at Georgetown as an undergrad. It was on the history of North Africa and his death is certainly a loss to the scholarly community. Per David Mack's observation on the dearth of North Africa experts, I note that the texts for the course were in French. jcg