In memoriam

Robert Douglas Cope


The Department of History this past month lost a longtime faculty member, accomplished scholar, and renown teacher, Robert Douglas Cope. Affectionately known by colleagues and friends as Doug, Cope was a prominent historian of colonial Latin America, with a particular focus on Mexico. From a working-class family, he started his higher education by receiving an A.A. degree in Humanities at St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Michigan and then a Bachelor of Arts in History at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He continued his studies in Latin American history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he received his doctorate in 1987. After short teaching stints at the University of Oregon and the University of Miami, he arrived at Brown in 1988.  Over the years he became widely known among students for his dynamic and energetic courses on Mexico, Guatemala, the early modern Atlantic world, among them: “The Clash of the Empires,” “The Age of Rebellion in Mexico and the Andes,” and “Atlantic Pirates” His book, The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720, which has become a classic study of racial identities and the popular classes in colonial Mexico, received honorable mention for the Herbert E. Bolton Prize for the best book in Latin American Studies. Professor Cope was completing a manuscript about the informal economy of eighteenth-century Mexico City when he passed away. A dedicated mentor, he worked closely with undergraduates in the History Department as a first-year, sophomore, and concentration advisor; as a graduate student supervisor for the colonial Latin America; and as the concentration advisor for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.  A legendary teacher, Doug brought his broad and deep knowledge about colonial Latin America to thousands of students who took his courses and enjoyed his expansive lecturing style, which was laced with contemporary cultural references that enticed the students into the world of early modern Latin America and the Caribbean.