Department of Political Studies


Political Studies

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Welcome to the Department of Political Studies

Students during the Model Parliament 

History of the Department

In 1877, a Queen's philosophy professor, John Watson, gave a series of courses in "political economy," which proved sufficiently popular that in 1889, another professor of philosophy, Adam Shortt, convinced the university to create a Department of Political and Economic Science and to appoint him as the first full-time professor of politics and economics. He held the Sir John A. Macdonald Chair of Political and Economic Science from 1899 until 1908, when he was appointed the first chair of the Canadian Civil Service Commission, a body created to reform the federal public service. He helped to eliminate much of the patronage and corruption that marked the civil service at the time before being appointed as head of the Dominion Archives.

Over the years, Shortt's successors proved no less capable of earning national and international reputations. Some, like O.D. Skelton, moved from Queen's to the federal government in Ottawa, where in the 1920s and 1930s he laid the foundation for the contemporary foreign service. Others assumed senior administrative responsibilities at Queen's: J.A. Corry served as Principal between 1961 and 1968; R.L. Watts was Principal between 1974 and 1984.

In the decades that followed, the Department of Political and Economic Science grew considerably, offering courses in a wide variety of emerging university disciplines - business, geography, industrial relations, public administration, and sociology in addition to economics and political science.

Some of the first faculty members of the Department of Political Studies​While the Department of Political Studies at Queen's is widely recognized as one of the premier political science departments in Canada, it had exceedingly modest beginnings.

Beginning in 1960, reflecting broader trends towards disciplinary specialization across the university system, this large and omnibus Department began a process of division and divestiture. In 1960, a separate Department of Geography was created. In 1963, the School of Business, which had been part of Political and Economic Science since the creation of a commerce program in 1919, became its own faculty. In 1964, the economists left to form a separate department. In 1969, it was the turn of the sociologists (though the faculty member who gave the first sociology course at Queen's, John Meisel, remained in Political Studies). Finally, in 1970, a School of Public Administration - forerunner of today's School of Policy Studies - was created.

J.E. Hodgetts was the first head of the new Department of Political Studies in 1964; he and six of the Department heads who followed him are pictured at left.

It was after the departure of the economists in 1964 that the Department of Political Studies at Queen's cemented its reputation as one of the leading political science departments in Canada for both undergraduate and graduate work. Although the first graduate degree was granted in 1926, it was not until the 1960s that the graduate program expanded along with the expansion of Canada's post-secondary education system. In the decades that followed, numerous PhDs from Political Studies at Queen's were appointed to university professorships in Canada and in other countries. In the meantime, the undergraduate program continued to grow.

By the early 2000s, many of those members of the faculty who had joined the Department in the 1960s and 1970s began to retire. By 2000, the list of retired and emeritus professors included Ed Black, C.E.S. Franks, Stewart Fyfe, J.W. Grove, Jayant Lele, Colin Leys, William P. Irvine, John Meisel, Nils Ørvik, K.B. Sayeed, Hugh Thorburn, and R.L. Watts. In 2002, we also said goodbye to Professors J.A.W. (Jock) Gunn, Peter Leslie, Steve Page, George Perlin and David Zweig. In 2003, Bruce Berman and Phil Goldman retired from the Department and in 2004 Nadia Khalaf also retired.

Beginning in 2001, the Department began to undergo a major rejuvenation. In 2001, Kim Nossal arrived from McMaster University to head the Department. In 2002, John McGarry and Margaret Moore joined the Department. McGarry was appointed as a Canada Research Chair to launch a major project in nationalism, ethnicity and multicultural citizenship; Moore was appointed as a Queen’s National Scholar. In 2004, we were joined by Oded Haklai and Andrew Lister. Haklai, whose PhD is from the University of Toronto, teaches comparative politics. Lister received his doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles, and teaches political theory. In 2006, five members were appointed: Zsuzsa Csergo, who teaches comparative politics, specializing in post-Communist politics; Bruce Gilley, who teaches Chinese politics; Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant, who teaches methods and Canadian politics; J. Andrew Grant, who teaches international relations and international political economy; and J. Scott Matthews, who teaches Canadian politics. In 2008, Colin Farrelly, who teaches political theory, joined us as a Queen's National Scholar, while Matthew Mendelsohn and Bruce Gilley resigned to take up positions elsewhere. In 2009, Janet Hiebert was appointed as head of Department.

July 2008