All of us who are sociologists are indebted to Chuck Tilly because he pushed the whole discipline to think BACK – to history, in time – and to think BIGGER – to ask larger questions. Whether or not one worked in his area of historical and comparative sociology, he influenced all of sociology. I think his work helped push us out of the post-World War II mold of asking small questions that had small answers. The answers, he stressed, are only as good as the questions.
I did not coincide with Chuck in Michigan since he had left (in 1984) before I arrived. But I knew of the Center for Research on Social Organization he created at Michigan before I came here and like many across the US was well-impressed that such a Center existed.
I grew to know him some and felt his presence as a participant in the Social Science History Association, an institution that he founded and for which he called in his seminal work AS SOCIOLOGY MEETS HISTORY (1981). With the founding of the SSHA, he brought historians and sociologists together to listen to each other and to talk to one another. The SSHA pushed sociologists to think BACK, as well as to realize that the present, as well as the past, is always historical. It pushed historians to be conscious of METHOD, of how what we find depends on how we look for it.
In addition to his many intellectual contributions, Chuck Tilly was a very nice man. I am fortunate to have gotten to know him as a kind person, as one who went out of his way to help others who he thought were deserving. He worked incessantly but he also liked people and went out his way for them. I developed a real affection for him and am grateful for the model of a person, a scholar, a sociologist he left us.
I am truly sorry that we have lost him. But I am grateful he had a good life. He was loved by his family and good friends. And appreciated by so many of his colleagues.
University of Michigan