Professor Oliver was a Professor of History at York University for over 40 years, beginning as a full time lecturer in 1965. His work focused mainly on the political and legal history of Ontario in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as correctional history and penology. He was noted for his work on a variety of Ontario politicians, being recognized as one of the premier historians of the province’s political history. From 1967 until 1977, he wrote the annual survey of Ontario for the Canadian Annual Review, and in 1971, the Ontario Historical Series Trustees made Prof. Oliver the associate editor of a comprehensive history of Ontario. From 1971 to 1993, that series grew to 31 volumes.
This impressive body of work garnered Prof. Oliver a number of awards. He won the Cruikshank Medal of the Ontario Historical Society in 1971 for his contributions to professional historical writing. His biography of Howard Ferguson was short-listed for the Canadian Historical Association’s MacDonald Prize, being given special mention by the Association. For his commitment to Ontario history and to Canadian legal history, he won the Guthrie Award in 1997, given by the Ontario Law Foundation for ‘outstanding public service’ and ‘excellence in the legal profession.’ In 2001 he was made a member of the Order of Ontario, and in 2002 he received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
Prof. Oliver was editor-in-chief of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History from 1979 until 2006. During his tenure, the Society published 66 works on Canadian legal history, including two works by Prof. Oliver himself. He was greatly respected by his colleagues in a variety of academic disciplines. As a testament to his great contributions to Canadian legal and political history, the Osgoode Society published Essays in the History of Law: Volume X – A Tribute to Peter N. Oliver (Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and University of Toronto Press, 2008), a collection of essays honouring Prof. Oliver’s legacy.
Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History Books
‘Terror to Evil-Doers’: Prisons and Punishments in Nineteenth Century Ontario (Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and University of Toronto Press 1998). Winner of the J.J. Talman Award of the Ontario Historical Society, 1998.
The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878 (Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and University of Toronto Press 2003).
Chapters in Osgoode Society Books
‘Power, Politics and the Law: The Place of the Judiciary in the Historiography of Upper Canada’ in G. Blaine Baker and Jim Phillips, eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law Volume VIII: In Honour of R.C.B. Risk (Toronto: Osgoode Society and University of Toronto Press, 1999) pp. 443-468.
‘To Govern by Kindness: The First Two Decades of the Mercer Reformatory for Women, in J. Phillips, S. Lewthwaite, and T. Loo, eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law Volume V: Crime and Criminal Justice (Toronto: Osgoode Society and University of Toronto Press, 1995), pp. 516-572.