Obituary: Dr Peter Cook

Peter Love

The Labour History Society lost a great friend and supporter when Dr Peter Cook, Senior Lecturer in History at LaTrobe University, died on 24 September 1991.

He grew up in a working class suburb of Adelaide and, after trying his hand at a number of jobs, went to the university where he took two degrees, one in Economics and the other in Arts. In the late 1960s he accepted a research scholarship at the Australian National University to write a PhD thesis on the Scullin Government. Soon after his arrival in Canberra he took an interest in the Society and, for a short time, was secretary of our Society.

In 1970 he moved to Melbourne to take up his post at LaTrobe University where he established an undergraduate subject in labour history which remained popular with students for nearly twenty years. Although he had no taste for the more theatrical style of lecturing in fact, he ceased giving formal lectures in recent years – he was an inspiring teacher. A generation of history students at LaTrobe were inspired by his passionate interest in Australian and labour history. He had a sharp eye for the slightest sign of genuine intellectual curiosity in students which he nurtured with a judicious combination of challenge and reassurance. He also had a keen nose for pomposity or hypocrisy. Above all, he will be remembered as a generous-spirited scholarly critic who gave freely of his time and ideas to his students. There is a very long shelf of honours, masters and PhD theses at his home which will remain an enduring monument to his self-effacing role in nurturing a generation of labour historians.

For several years he was an active contributor to Recorder the Melbourne branch journal. He wrote regular book notes and shorter articles for it and was a willing helper in the more mundane tasks of collating, stapling and enveloping.

Although he did not publish a great deal of his own work, as teacher, adviser, critic and examiner he had a hand in the work of many others. At the time of his death he had almost completed a biography of Ted Laurie. With the help of his friends, it ought yet be finished and so reveal to those who did not know him well the depth of his humane and generous scholarship.

Hummer and the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History offers its sincere sympathy to Peter’s wife Rosaleen and his two sons Jack and Ross.