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Historian Frederick Bowser dies at 58

STANFORD -- Frederick P. Bowser, professor of Latin American history, died at his home June 17, after a long illness. He was 58.

Bowser joined the Stanford faculty in 1967 and received his Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley that same year. In 1975, his book The African Slave in Colonial Peru: 1524-1650 won both the Herbert Eugene Bolton Memorial Prize of the American Historical Association and the prize for best book awarded by the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association. The book explored the contributions of black Africans to the development of colonial Peru.

"Frederick Bowser was one of the country's preeminent historians of African slavery in Latin America," said Stephen Haber, professor of history. "He is particularly known for the work he did on slavery in colonial Peru, which demonstrated that at the end of the 16th century there were roughly 100,000 African slaves working in Peru's mines, plantations and artisanal workshops.

"In recent years Bowser had been working on the elite of colonial Mexico, and for the past decade he had been carrying out a detailed study of the composition and mobility of the elite of Michoacán, Mexico, from the 16th to the early 19th centuries."

Bowser also directed the M.A. core seminar for the Center for Latin American Studies, and colleagues there said tributes and contributions from former students already have been received.

"Professor Bowser was an integral part of our program and we feel his loss deeply," said Terry Karl, associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Latin American Studies. "Those of us who were privileged to work closely with him saw a teacher who profoundly influenced his students through his rigorous standards, careful attention to detail, good judgment, scholarly concern with the historiography of Latin America and his dry sense of humor. Both students and faculty benefited from his tremendous loyalty to our center, his efforts in the core teaching program and his constant hard work."

Robert A. Packenham, professor of political science, described Bowser as "a lively and wise intellectual, and a fine scholar and teacher."

"His book on slavery in colonial Peru was meticulous in scholarship, subtle and rich in ideas and written in the most elegant, precise, careful prose," Packenham added. "Indeed, those are qualities that were manifest in everything he did, particularly in his teaching, where he was challenging and demanding but at the same time sensitive, understanding and supportive of students. He liked bringing younger scholars along and he was very good at it. He was also a fine colleague: He had a splendid sense of humor, he was good natured, realistic and funny about people and institutions, but always constructive."

Bowser is survived by his wife, Margaret Chowning, a Stanford Ph.D. in history, three daughters and two grandchildren.

No services are planned. Those wishing to make memorial donations are asked to contribute to the charity of their choice.



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