About David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye
David is Professor of Russian history at Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
His research focuses on 18th- and 19th-century Russian cultural, intellectual, diplomatic and military history, and he is the author of several acclaimed books, including Toward the Rising Sun: Russian Ideologies of Empire and the Path to War with Japan and Russian Orientalism: Asia in the Russian Mind from Peter the Great to the Emigration.
David’s natural curiosity about the world, expertise in his subject matter, penchant for travel, and talent for making the stories of the past relevant today, have earned him the respect of both students and peers around the globe.
In fact, David was among the first foreign scholars to gain free access to the Russian diplomatic sources of the period he studies, and he has leveraged this opportunity to the fullest.
David’s interest in history originated, in part, from his own family story. He grew up in the Netherlands, and his father, who worked for a time as a journalist, regularly brought home the political issues of the day. Meanwhile, his grandfather was a Russian émigré, which introduced him to a completely different perspective.
However, David’s his true passion for the past stems more from the personal philosophy his childhood helped form. Specifically, his deeply held belief that it’s only through gaining a better understanding of other cultures that we as a global society can decrease the likelihood of conflict, as well as move our own cultures forward, by exploring how other people in other places live and work – learning from both their successes and failures.
As David states, “I think it’s a terrible loss to have no sense of the world beyond your own borders. We need to realize that the age when we could hide from the rest of the world is long gone. In the past, we could simply say, ‘This is somebody else’s war, it doesn’t impact me.’ But now things halfway across the globe do affect us. We owe it to ourselves to be more aware citizens of the world.”
David was educated at the University of Toronto Schools and at Yale College. While he spent eight years as an investment banker in Toronto and the City of London, he soon realized that banking was not aligned with his true nature. It was history that made his heart sing. Against the advice of family and friends, who urged him to remain on the more secure corporate path, David returned to Yale and completed his doctorate in history in 1997
His decision to pursue Russian history, in particular, was a direct result of growing up during the Cold War. “I knew the Netherlands intimately because I grew up there,” David said. “I knew France because we often went there to visit my mother’s family. But Russia, in my early life, was completely closed off to me because of the Iron Curtain. At age six I was talking about Sputnik and Khrushchev, and I believed that war was a distinct possibility. I now make it my life’s mission to take away the mystery and fear that still surrounds Russia today.”
Since beginning his academic career, David has been awarded fellowships by Harvard University’s Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, the National Humanities Center, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and a Brock University Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2015.
David has also been invited to lead seminars at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the School for Higher Economics in St Petersburg, the Russian Grand Strategy Program in Moscow, the Institute of History at the Uzbek Academy of Sciences in Tashkent, the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk, and the Ural Federal University of Ekaterinburg.
David was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Canadian Armour Corps, serving with the Queen’s York Rangers, 1st Americans, Canada’s oldest regiment. He now sits on the Regimental Council and has written its history, Remembering Our Gallantry in Former Days.
David is currently working on a book about tsarist expansion into Central Asia titled, Russia’s Great Game: The Struggle for Primacy in Central Asia, and is co-editing a volume on The International History of Russia’s Great War for the Russia’s Great War and Revolution series.
You can contact David and check his availability for speaking engagements and other projects at dschimme-at-brocku.ca, +1 905 688 5550 Ext. 3507
You can also connect with David on Academia and Linkedin – he looks forward to getting to know you and discussing anything and everything related to Russia and the entire of world of diverse and interesting cultures.
See also Carolien Stolte’s interview with David for Itinerario.