When a prominent person takes his own life and leaves only a terse explanation that can be read in contrary ways, there should be little wonder that the result is enduring discord. So, just as change marked the life of Herbert Norman, ambiguity can be seen as the outcome of his death. The primary and secondary sources you’ve seen elsewhere on this site lay out a range of perspectives on Norman’s life and death that emerged in the Cold War era and immediately afterward. This section is different in that it features commentary written in 2007 and based on reflection 50 years after Norman’s suicide.

Scholars often insist that while the factual foundation of history is important, making sense of the details is really the essence of historical writing. With this in mind, consider the differing ways that historians interpret the significance of Norman’s life and death. Arrayed here are interpretations that assess the central question of why Herbert Norman committed suicide. They were written by a specialist on Cold War Canada, an historian of Japan familiar with Norman’s legacy there, an academic who has studied Norman’s diplomatic writing, an historian based in Norman’s own government department, now known as the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and a scholar based in the United States whose area of study is the communist movement in that country.

Teachers can request access to the experts' interpretations of the mysteries that have been created for each site. We have made this section password-protected to encourage students to come up with their own interpretations of primary documents, rather than relying on other people's analyses. To access the Interpretations just fill in our online registration form and await your password.

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