Norman Rufus Colin Cohn FBA was a British academic, historian and writer who spent fourteen years as a professional fellow and as Astor-Wolfson Professor at the University of Sussex.
Cohn was born in London to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother and studied at Christ Church, Oxford. He served for six years in the British Army, being commissioned into the Queen’s Royal Regiment in 1939 and transferring to the Intelligence Corps in 1944, where his knowledge of modern languages found employment. In the immediate post-war period, he was stationed in Vienna, ostensibly to interrogate Nazis. He also encountered many refugees from Stalinism, and the similarities in prosecutorial obsessions evinced both by Nazism and Stalinism fuelled his interest in the historical background for these ideologically opposed, yet functionally similar movements.
After his discharge, Cohn taught in universities across the UK and North America and became the head of the Columbus Centre at the University of Sussex, which was set up to look into the causes of extremism and persecution.