The History Department Remembers Professor Emeritus David Morgan (1945-2019)
Professor Emeritus David O. Morgan passed away on Wednesday, October 23, 2019, at the age of 74. He earned his B.A. from the University of Oxford in 1966 and his Ph.D. from the University of London in 1977. He came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999 as a “cluster hire” in History and Religious Studies, having previously taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, for two decades, retiring in 2010. He was internationally renowned for his scholarship on Islamic civilization and the Middle East, most particularly for two frequently republished books: Medieval Persia 1040-1797, and The Mongols, which has been translated into many languages, from Spanish to (fittingly) Mongolian. He also achieved prominence for his editorial work on, for instance, the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, The New Cambridge History of Islam (vol. 3), and the book series Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization, on whose board he still sat at the time of his death. Brought to UW to fortify the University’s offerings in Islamic history, he taught courses over a huge chronological (600-1800) and geographical (Middle East-Central and South Asia) range, and his classes on “Islam in Iran” and “The Crusades: Christianity and Islam” were undergraduate staples.
An exemplary teacher and colleague, Morgan “was a mentor and a role model to so many of his students,” observes Molly Patterson, now Associate Professor of Middle Eastern history at UW-Whitewater. “I know I am not alone in saying that his influence helped us become both better historians and better human beings.” Charles Cohen, who ran the search that brought Morgan to UW and then directed the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions, on whose faculty steering committee Morgan served, praises Morgan’s depth of knowledge about Christianity and Judaism as well as Islam, along with his intellectual generosity. He remembers Morgan fondly as a “tower of support” and a resource “nonpareil” for his own fledgling work on the three traditions’ braided histories. A lover of classical music and of gin and tonic—the “elixir of life,” as he called it—Morgan was, in Patterson’s estimate, graced with “compassion, humor, and great intelligence.”