History Headlines December 22, 2013: John Eisenhower, Military Historian and Son of the President, Dies at 91

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John Eisenhower, Military Historian and Son of the President, Dies at 91

Source: NYT, 12-22-13

Mr. Eisenhower, the son of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the five-star general turned president, forged his own career in the Army and then chronicled the history of the military in numerous books….READ MORE

History Buzz July 8, 2013: History Doyen Edmund Morgan dies at 97; Yale University professor and leading historian of Colonial era

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Edmund Morgan, 97; professor, leading historian of Colonial era

Source: Boston Globe, 7-9-13

Bob Child/Associated Press

2002 AP FILE

Edmund Morgan, shown at his home in Connecticut, won a Pulitzer Prize for his large body of work.

Edmund S. Morgan, one of the foremost historians of early America, died of pneumonia Monday in Yale-New Haven Hospital. He was 97. He had taught since 1955 at Yale University, where he was Sterling professor emeritus of history….READ MORE

Edmund S. Morgan, Historian Who Shed Light on Puritans, Dies at 97

Source: NYT, 7-9-13

Edmund S. Morgan, an award-winning historian who illuminated the intellectual world of the Puritans, explored the paradox of freedom and slavery in colonial Virginia and, in his 80s, wrote a best-selling biography of Benjamin Franklin, died on Monday in New Haven. He was 97….READ MORE

Yale historian who wrote book on Ben Franklin dies at 97

Source: New Haven Register, 7-9-13

Edmund S. Morgan, a revered Yale University historian who shared a birthday with Benjamin Franklin and whose insights into early New England enlightened generations of Americans, has died at the age of 97….READ MORE

The following is a reprint of  Edmund S. Morgan’s History Doyen profiled I edited while I was an Assistant Editor at the History News Network (HNN), as part of the History Doyens series I was the editor of  from 2006 to 2010. Morgan’s profile was first published on April 16, 2006. 

Edmund S. Morgan

What They’re Famous For

Edmund Morgan is the Sterling Professor Emeritus at Yale University. Morgan has authored dozens of books on Puritan and early colonial history, which are acclaimed for both their scholarly focus and their appeal to a general audience. Michael Kammen in the Washington Post Book World described Morgan as “one of the most distinguished historians of the United States.” His books have challenged traditional assumptions about the forces that shaped early American history, including the lives and beliefs of the Puritans and the impetus for the Revolutionary War. Morgan has earned a reputation as an historian of people as well as of ideas, and as a writer of wide appeal. Bruce Kuklick, writing in Books and Culture, maintained that “Edmund Morgan is arguably the finest living American historian.”Edmund Morgan  JPG

Morgan’s most influencial books include The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution (1953), Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1988), which won Columbia University’s Bancroft Prize in American History in 1989, and American Slavery, American Freedom (1975), which won the Society of American Historians’ Francis Parkman Prize, the Southern Historical Association’s Charles S. Sydnor Prize and the American Historical Association’s Albert J. Beveridge Award. Two of his early books, Birth of the Republic (1956) and The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (1958) which is a standard text on the topic used in University courses.

Morgan has received many awards throughout his prolific career for his work as a writer and a professor, including a lifetime achievement Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for “a creative and deeply influential body of work as an American historian that spans the last half-century.” In 1971 he was awarded the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa’s William Clyde DeVane Medal for outstanding teaching and scholarship, considered one of the most prestigious teaching prizes for Yale faculty. In 1972 he became the first recipient of the Douglas Adair Memorial Award for scholarship in early American history, and in 1986 he received the Distinguished Scholar Award of the American Historical Association. In 1965 Morgan became a Sterling Professor, one of Yale’s highest distinctions, and was awarded the 2000 National Humanities Medal by the US President Bill Clinton at a ceremony for “extraordinary contributions to American cultural life and thought.”

Morgan’s own interest in history grew while he was an undergraduate at Harvard, where he went on to earn his Ph.D in 1942. At Harvard Morgan studied under Perry Miller. Since he became a historian, he has witnessed a major change in his field. In 2002, he achieved his first New York Times best-seller with Benjamin Franklin Morgan attributes this to “the geezer factor. There just aren’t that many 86-year-olds writing books, so when they do, it’s quite an event.”

Personal Anecdote

The Calvinist

It was the 29th of August, 1938. After a postgraduate year at the London School of Economics I had been touring Europe with a friend, and we were then spending a week in Freiburg im Breisgau, not far from the French border. In a fit of cultural enthusiasm we had decided to travel to Colmar to view the famous altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald, a day trip by train via Breissach on the German border.

Before describing what happened there and how it affected me, I need to say that I had spent four years at Harvard under the tutorship of Perry Miller, whose respect for ideas and need to share them had given direction to my college years. Edmund S. Morgan  JPG He, like myself, was a confirmed atheist but at the same time an admirer and profound student of Puritan theology and its elegant scheme of thought. His studies of that scheme would bring him recognition as the foremost intellectual historian of his day. As a student and admirer of Miller, I had devoted much of my college studies to growing familiar with the doctrines of predestination, original sin, divine perfection, human depravity, and theodicy (the defense of God’s goodness despite the existence of evil). Puritan theology commanded respect as a rigorous intellectual system. But I had never quite accepted its dire view of the human condition, its insistence on the innate depravity of human beings. At twenty-two most people did not look all that bad to me.

At Breissach I gained a new perspective on humanity. It was exactly one month before the Munich Pact for which Neville Chamberlain became infamous. The morning paper had announced that Hitler had sent an ultimatum to Czechoslovakia demanding the return of the Sudetenland. When we reached Breissach, we were told that there was a two-hour wait before we would be allowed to cross over to the French side of the Rhine to reach Colmar. And as we strolled through the town, we noticed that young men in SS uniform were everywhere, standing conspicuously in every doorway. Without exception they were blond, six feet tall or more, good-looking. They could easily have been taken for American college boys. So we asked one of them what was going on. “Nur Ubung” was the answer: “just an excercise.” We came to a road leading to a cathedral overlooking the Rhine. As we walked into a beer garden we were confronted by a man in plainclothes who came over to tell us in a civil manner that we could go no further. Why? Because they were “cleaning the cathedral.” We laughed out loud, and so did he. They don’t clean cathedrals in Germany, or anywhere else for that matter. Anyhow, we must not proceed. He was obviously Gestapo.

So we sat down in the beer garden, next to a low hedge beside the street. Moments later, a big open-topped Mercedes touring car fishtailed to a stop near us. Top brass in Wehrmacht uniforms stepped down and had the SS arrange everyone on the street (full of people as curious as we were) in a row opposite to where we sat. Blackshirted men stood at six-foot intervals beside our hedge watching the citizenry, hands on pistols. Why we, and a few others, were permitted to stay put is a puzzle. Everyone was aware that some big shot was coming, but we did not expect the man himself. Then Hitler came through, fanning his signature sloppy salute to the crowd, as his touring car drove up past the cathedral that was not being cleaned. There was no mistaking his beefsteak-red face and negligent demeanor. In preparation for the coming war he was inspecting the Rhine fortifications.

We sat quietly, not ten feet from him as he passed slowly by. I could not help thinking that if I had been armed I could have shot him. (Like many American boys of my generation, I had been given a rifle at an early age and shown how to use it on small unoffending animals.) No one had searched me or any other patron of the beer garden, though I assume that more than one SS man had us in his sights.

The point of this story, for me, however, is that I knew I was looking evil in the face. And it looked like my next-door neighbor or a friend of the family, perhaps a bit old-fashioned but solid. Edmund S.  Morgan JPG What Hitler was already doing to the Jews of Germany and Austria was no secret-although highly-placed officials of the United States government were content to look away and to complain about slanders directed against the German nation.(The American consul at Stuttgart, with whom I had subsequent dealings, was a blatant antisemite.) The part those fresh-faced, and, well, biddable, young men in black were playing was no secret, either. But they all looked so human and so everyday. Even the Gestapo agent could have been a stodgy chance-met tourist rather than a hard man or heavily-armed stooge.

Puritan theology began to make sense, in a way that shook me. I could not believe in the salvation of a few held out by John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards, but human depravity suddenly acquired a face, the cheerful mask that we all learn to wear as the price of belonging to a settled social order. I was still an atheist, as I am now, but that day in Breissach I became a Calvinist atheist. Human beings are capable of great good, but I know that the capacity for fathomless evil is equally human, and it wears a smiling face.

Quotes

By Edmund S. Morgan

  • “We can know what many of his contemporaries came to recognize, that he did as much as any man ever has to shape the world he and they lived in. Benjamin Franklin JPG We can also know what they must have known, that the world was not quite what he would have liked to make it. But we may also discover a man hidden behind the affability and wit that entranced those who enjoyed his presence. We may discover a man with a wisdom about himself that comes only to the great of heart. Franklin knew how to value himself and what he did without mistaking himself for some- thing more than one man among many. His special brand of self-respect required him to honor his fellow men and women no less than himself. His way of serving a superior God was to serve them. He did it with a recognition of their human strengths and weaknesses as well as his own, in a spirit that another wise man in another century has called “the spirit which is not too sure it is right.” It is a spirit that weakens the weak but strengthens the strong. It gave Franklin the strength to do what he incredibly did, as a scientist, a statesman, and a man.” — Edmund S. Morgan in “Benjamin Franklin”
  • How Virginian, then, was America? How heavily did American economic opportunity and political freedom rest on Virginia’s slaves? If Virginia had continued to rely on the importation of white servants, would they have headed north when they turned free and brought insoluble problems of poverty with them? Would they have threatened the peace and prosperity of Philadelphia and New York and Boston, where the poor were steadily growing in numbers anyhow? Would Northerners have embraced republican ideas of equality so readily if they had been surrounded by men in “a certaindegree of misery”? American  Slavery, American Freedom JPG And could the new United States have made a go of it in the world of nations without Virginia and without the products of slave labor? Northern republicans apparently thought not. Some could not condone slavery and talked of breaking loose from the South in their own independent confederation. But the fact is that they did not. They allowed Virginians to compose the documents that founded their republic, and they chose Virginians to chart its course for a generation.”Eventually, to be sure, the course the Virginians charted for the United States proved the undoing of slavery. And a Virginia general gave up at Appomattox the attempt to support freedom with slavery. But were the two more closely linked than his conquerors could admit? Was the vision of a nation of equals flawed at the source by contempt for both the poor and the black? Is America still colonial Virginia writ large? More than a century after Appomattox the questions linger.” — Edmund Morgan in “American Slavery, American Freedom”
  • “It looked as though my best friend at Brown, Barney Keeney, was going to be made president, but the corporation didn’t do anything about that until Wriston was just about ready to step out of office. I can’t remember the exact sequence of events, but I would have been upset if they hadn’t made Keeney president; on the other hand, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be teaching at a college where my best friend was president. I though to myself , ‘Maybe you’re just too complacent.’ I found myself getting very conservative about practically everything. I didn’t want any changes made. I thought, ‘Well, you need shaking up. You’re sitting here getting just as complacent as you can be.’ And then Yale makes me this offer, so I said, ‘Oh, well, what the hell.’ Hedges made no bones about advising me. He said ‘Brown is Brown, but Yale is Yale. You ought not to stay here, you ought to go on.’ So, in any case I decided. ‘Well, maybe I need some more challemges, maybe I need to be shaken up.’ In a sense I left Brown because I was too confortable there.” — Edmund S. Morgan in 1985 interview discussing his decision to teach at Yale.
  • “I guess The Stamp Act Crisis. That’s the one I got the most excitement out of writing, I guess. I felt that I was seeing things fresh in in a major current of American history. Putting it together was more challenging than most books that I’ve done; maybe it was my firsat real book after my dissertation.” — Edmund S. Morgan in 1985 interview discussing his most influencial and also favorite book.
  • “I made a point of always teaching undergraduates because they are not a captive audience. If you teach undergrads, you have to make history intelligible to people who are not specialists in your field and that’s good for you as a scholar. I always tried out my research ideas first in the classroom to get feedback from people who didn’t have to listen to me if I didn’t make it interesting.” — Edmund S. Morgan on ungraduate teaching in “Humanities”
  • “I used to tell my students to try and maintain the capacity for surprise. If you’re studying the French Revolution and you come across something that surprises you, you have to ask why it surprises you. Most likely, it’s because what you’ve read about the French Revolution before would not lead you to think that this would happen or that it had happened. So don’t say, ‘gee, I didn’t know that’-you have to ask why you didn’t know that. The likelihood is that somebody else gave you the impression it wasn’t so…. “You’ve got to take what people say seriously.”… “Don’t start with the assumption that they didn’t mean what they were saying. It’s up to you to show that they don’t mean it if you don’t think they mean it. All that postmodernism is junk. If the postmodernists are right, there’s no point in studying history at all… No matter what people say, history doesn’t repeat itself.” ” — Edmund S. Morgan in a Publishers Weekly interview about historical philosophy
  • Looking back on his career as a teacher, Morgan says that his greatest reward in the classroom was “getting students to talk back and challenge my ideas. I always had large classes, but I encouraged students to interrupt me at any time.”… “My view has always been that an analysis of historical developments should be embodied in narrative,” Morgan says of his approach as both teacher and writer of history. “A historian should not be didactic-that is a word that makes my blood run cold.” — Edmund Morgan in Yale Bulletin & Calendar, January 12, 2001

About Edmund S. Morgan

  • “While several previous biographies provide fuller accounts of Franklin’s life, none rivals Morgan’s study for its grasp of Franklin’s character, its affinity not just for his ideas, but for the way his mind worked.” — Joseph J. Ellis, London Review of Books on “Benjamin Franklin”
  • “So much has been written about Benjamin Franklin in the 212 years since his death that you might imagine there’s nothing left to say. But there always is. Now comes another biography of the man, a fairly short one, and in my opinion it’s one of the best. The author is Edmund S. Morgan, a historian of early America at Yale University for 47 years, now emeritus. He stands high in his profession, is closely familiar with the 18th (Franklin’s) century, and writes with clarity and a pleasing informality. He is an ideal author for this undertaking.” — Max Hall, former editor at Harvard University Press reviewing “Benjamin Franklin”
  • “Benjamin Franklin generated much controversy in his own times, and historians have reflected this in their treatment of him. Professor Edmund S. Morgan, in his new and readable biography, relies heavily on Franklin’s writings to tell Franklin’s side of the story. He does it well…Franklin would have been pleased with Morgan’s interpretation. Many others, both then and now, would disagree, but, for those who want to know Franklin as Franklin undoubtedly wanted to be known, Morgan’s biography is the place to start. — Owen S. Ireland reviewing “Benjamin Franklin”
  • For the past quarter century Edmund S. Morgan has been one of the most prolific and respected authors of early American history. Noted for its incisiveness, as well as its graceful crafting, his work on the New England Puritans and the American Revolution has set high standards as a model of careful investigation and sensitive reading of the historical record. For these reasons, any addition to the corpus of Morgan’s scholarship immediately commands his colleagues’ attention. But American Slavery, American Freedom is attractive in its own right because it is one of the first book-length studies to emerge from the current reexamination of Virginia’s colonial history. Furthermore, Morgan’s assessment of the Old Dominion’s first two centuries is destined to spark controversy among specialists in Southern history and slavery…. American Slavery, American Freedom is a stimulating book. Its insights are provocative and imaginative, and therein lies the book’s importance. — Warren M. Billings, University of New Orleans reviewing “American Slavery, American Freedom”
  • Edmund Morgan’s The Genuine Article is an anthology of book reviews written by one of America’s most prolific and knowledgeable scholars of early America for the New York Review of Books. Having said that, one should not assume that his reviews resemble anything that you will read in the book reviews of journalism History. While each review is a means of educating readers about the book or books that he is reviewing, Morgan, who has written and edited twenty other volumes since 1952, is more interested in enlightening readers about issues, people, and events from seventeenthand eighteenth-century America.Genuine Article JPG For Morgan, who taught at Yale University from 1955 until his retirement in 1986, the release of a new volume on early America presented the opportunity to give readers a history lesson while critiquing the scholarship that provided him with a point of departure. The resulting collection is probably the best historiography and introduction to life in early America that one could imagine with each lesson presented in twenty or fewer pages of concise, insightful commentary. The Genuine Article‘s chapters, which cover nearly forty years of Morgan’s reviews, describe most aspects of life in the colonies from the landing at Jamestown through the Revolution… Morgan reiterates this throughout, but, of even more value, he demonstrates what he professes through his reviews. The book’s cover claims Morgan “has had a more profound role in shaping our perceptions of the American colonies” than any other living historian. The breadth and depth of the reviews included in this anthology confirm the claim. — David Copeland reviewing “The Genuine Article: A Historian Looks at Early America”
  • “Edmund S. Morgan remains one of the academy’s best secrets. Over a long and fruitful career, Puritan  Dilemma JPG he has been one of the most influential historians of early America, a man with a rare gift for telling the story of the past simply and elegantly without sacrificing its abundant complexity. The best known of his books is probably his biography of John Winthrop, “The Puritan Dilemma.” Mr. Morgan’s “Gentle Puritan: A Life of Ezra Stiles” is the inside favorite of many historians, but the hilarious comparison of Indians with the barbarous Englishmen of 17th-century Virginia in “American Slavery – American Freedom” will delight anyone with a taste for the human comedy and good writing. Yet the work of this artist among contemporary historians remains generally unknown to the reading public.” — Pauline Maier in the New York Times Book Review
  • “To Edmund S. Morgan, for his brilliant scholarship as one of America’s most distinguished historians. With elegant prose, fresh perspective, and exhaustive research, he has enhanced our understanding of American colonial history by challenging traditions and assumptions about the birth of our nation and by bringing to life the people and ideas that shaped America’s destiny.” — 2000 National Humanities Medal Certificate’s commendation
  • “Morgan doesn’t teach history, he narrates it. Listening to his lectures is like listening to a story.” — Anonymous former student

Basic Facts

Teaching Positions: University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, instructor in social sciences, 1945-46;

Edmund S.  Morgan JPG

Brown University, Providence, RI, assistant professor, 1946-49, associate professor, 1949-51, professor of history, 1951-55;

Yale University, New Haven, CT, professor of history, 1955-65, Sterling Professor of History, 1965-86, professor emeritus, 1986–.

Johnson Research Professor, University of Wisconsin, 1968-69.

Member of council, Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1953-56, 1958-60, and 1970-72;

Trustee of Smith College, 1984- 89.

Area of Research: Puritan and American colonial history

Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1937, Ph.D., 1942;

London School of Economics, University of London, graduate study, 1937- 38.

Major Publications:

  • The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England, (Boston Public Library, 1944, new edition, Harper, 1966).
  • Virginians at Home: Family Life in the Eighteenth Century, Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, VA), 1952.
  • (With Helen M. Morgan) The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution, (University of North Carolina Press, 1953, 3rd edition, 1994).
  • The Birth of the Republic, 1763-1789, (University of Chicago Press, 1956, 3rd edition, 1992).
  • The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop, (Little, Brown, 1958).
  • The American Revolution: A Review of Changing Interpretations, (Service Center for Teachers of History, 1958).
  • The Gentle Puritan: A Life of Ezra Stiles, 1727-1795, (Yale University Press, 1962, reprinted, Norton, 1984).
  • Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea, (New York University Press, 1963).
  • Roger Williams: The Church and the State, (Harcourt, 1967).
  • So What about History (Atheneum, 1969).
  • American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, (Norton, 1975).
  • The Challenge of the American Revolution, (Norton, 1976).
  • The Meaning of Independence: John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, (University Press of Virginia, 1976, 2nd edition, 2004).
  • The Genius of George Washington, (Norton, 1980).
  • Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America, (Norton, 1988).
  • Benjamin Franklin, (Yale University Press, 2002).
  • The Genuine Article, (Norton, 2004).

Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (With others) The National Experience: A History of the United States, (Harcourt, 1963).
  • (With others) The Emergence of the American, (Educational Services, 1965).
  • Prologue to the Revolution: Sources and Documents on the Stamp Act Crisis, 1764-1766, (University of North Carolina Press, 1959).
  • The Founding of Massachusetts: Historians and the Sources, (Bobbs-Merrill, 1964).
  • The American Revolution: Two Centuries of Interpretation, (Prentice-Hall, 1965).
  • The Diary of Michael Wigglesworth, 1653-1657: The Conscience of a Puritan, (Harper, 1965).
  • Puritan Political Ideas, 1558-1794, (Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, 2nd edition, Hackett Publishing, 2003).

Contributor to The Mirror of the Indian, Associates of the John Carter Brown Library, 1958. Author of introduction to Paul Revere’s Three Accounts of His Famous Ride, (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1961, 2nd edition, 1968). Also contributor of articles and reviews to historical journals. Member of editorial board, New England Quarterly.

Awards:

National Humanities Medal, 2000;

National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, 2003, for Benjamin Franklin;

Organization of American Historians Distinguished Services Award, 1998;

Bruce Catton Award, 1992;

Columbia University’s 1989 Bancroft Prize in American History for Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1988);

In 1971 he was awarded the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa’s William Clyde DeVane Medal for outstanding teaching and scholarship, considered one of the most prestigious teaching prizes for Yale faculty. One year later, he became the first recipient of the Douglas Adair Memorial Award for scholarship in early American history, and in 1986 he received the Distinguished Scholar Award of the American Historical Association.

Douglass Adair Memorial Award, 1972;

William Clyde DeWane Medal, 1971;

Research fellow, Huntington Library, 1952-53.

Morgan has received numerous fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council.

Morgan has received Honorary degrees from Rutgers University, Brown University, Colgate University, Washington College, William and Mary, University of New Haven, Williams College, Lawrence University, and Smith College.

Additional Info:

At Yale, Morgan has been a member of the Administrative Board of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin for more than 30 years and has been its chairman for the last 11. This documentary enterprise, sponsored by the American Philosophical Society and Yale and now edited by Ellen R. Cohn, is in its final few years. It now has 36 volumes and will eventually have about 46. In addition, the documents in all 46 volumes will be available on a CD-ROM.The documents are of three kinds: letters and other pieces written by Franklin, letters to Franklin, and other documents closely involving Franklin.

Edmund S.  Morgan JPG Morgan is a member of the Society of American Historians, American Antiquarian Society, Organization of American Historians (president, 1971-72), American Philosophical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, Massachusetts Historical Society, Colonial Society of Massachusetts, British Academy, Royal Historical Society.

During World War II Morgan worked at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, as a tool-and-die make in the Radiation Laboratory, (1942-45).

Morgan has been a professional woodturner for the past decade or so, working on large lathes and other equipment in the basement of his home. His walnut bowls and other creations have been exhibited at the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven and at the League of New Hampshire Craftsman in New Hampshire, where Morgan maintains a vacation home. He and his wife, Marie Morgan, have also crafted tables and other furniture for their home in New Haven.

History Buzz April 5, 2013: History Doyen Robert Remini Dies at 91

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Robert Remini, 91, acclaimed history professor, dies

Source: Chicago Tribune, 4-5-13

Robert Remini, an award-winning biographer and political historian, was named historian of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 and asked to pen a narrative history of the body. His book, “The House: The History of the House of Representatives,” was published the next year…READ MORE

The following is a reprint of Robert Remini’s History Doyen profiled I edited while I was an Assistant Editor at the History News Network (HNN). Robert Remini’s profile was the inaugural profile for the History Doyens series I edited, and was first published January 20, 2006 .  

History Doyens: Robert V. Remini

Edited & Compiled by Bonnie K. Goodman

What They’re Famous For

Robert V. Remini is professor emeritus of history and the humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Robert V. Remini  JPGHe is currently at work on a narrative history of the U.S. House of Representatives, and has been named House Historian. Remini has written a three-volume biography of Andrew Jackson, the third volume of the series, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845 won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1984. He is also the author of biographies of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, as well as a dozen other books on Jacksonian America, and is considered the most preeminent scholar on Andrew Jackson and his times.

Personal Anecdote

To a very large extent my career as an historian, such as it is, was determined by events over which I had little control. For example, when I graduated from college I fully intended to become a lawyer. Not because I was intrigued by the law but because it seemed like a worthy profession then for a child of the Great Depression. Fortunately World War II came along and I found myself aboard a ship plying the Atlantic and reading histories of the United States. I even read all nine volumes of Henry Adams’s History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and I loved every page. After three years in the service I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life reading and writing and teaching history. I got so worked up that I even had the audacity of writing an article and submitting it for publication to the American Historical Association. It wasn’t a very good article and was based solely on secondary sources. Graciously, the AHA rejected it, but it was not many years later when they did publish an article I wrote.

So as soon as I was discharged I enrolled in the graduate school of Columbia University and began my newly discovered career. I was particularly anxious to study 20th century, urban, New York, political history. I’m not sure why, except that I was born and raised a New Yorker, as were both my parents. I signed up for an MA seminar conducted by Richard Hofstadter. He had arrived at Columbia about the same time I did. The class was packed with about 40 students, most of them returning veterans. Can you imagine a seminar of 40? I don’t think I ever said a word in the seminar. I just enjoyed every word Hofstadter spoke, for he spoke like he wrote, in complete sentences and paragraphs, every one a delight to hear. I wrote my master’s essay on John Purroy Mitchel, the reform mayor of New York City just prior to World War I and fully intended to continue with this topic for my doctorate.

Then one day Hofstadter approached me and suggested that I consider doing my PhD dissertation on Martin Van Buren since the Mitchel papers were locked up for 50 years which would prevent any further work on that topic. It seems that Columbia had received a grant that would permit the University to purchase microfilm copies of presidential papers held in the Library of Congress and the library people at Columbia were anxious to begin with copies of the Van Buren papers. Apparently the grant also stipulated that a graduate student begin working on them after their arrival. Now Van Buren was a New Yorker, said Hofstadter, and an important political figure. Granted he was not urban or twentieth century, but if I accepted his suggestion it would mean that I could do my basic research at Columbia and not have to travel to Washington or any other remote repository. Now if you think a graduate student cannot be influenced by such a proposal you are very mistaken.

I was gratified that Hofstadter had suggested me for this work and I agreed to switch to the nineteenth century. I did my doctoral dissertation on the early political career of Martin Van Buren under the direction of Dumas Malone, since Hofstadter did not give a PhD seminar at that time. That dissertation when published as a book argued that Van Buren was central to the formation of the Democratic party and the revival of the two party system. I fully expected to continue that work and write a full biography of Van Buren but Andrew Jackson intervened and changed all my plans. But that’s another and longer story.

Quotes

By Robert V. Remini

  • At length one sovereign artist found the language to express what Andrew Jackson had meant to his generation. In Moby Dick, Herman Melvile paid everlasting tribute to the fallen hero:“Men may seem detestable… but man, in ideal, is so noble and so sparkling… that over any ignomininous blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes…. But this august dignity I treat of, is not the dignity of kings and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no robed investiture. Thou shall see it shining in the arm that wields a pick or drives a spike; that democratic dignity which, on all hands, radiates without end from God; Himself! The great God absolute! The centre and circumference of all democracy! His omnipresence, our divine equality!The Course  of American Democracy, 1833-1845 JPG “If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades ands castaways, I shall hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark; weave round them tragic graces;…if I shall touch that workman’s arm, with some etheral light…then against all moral critics bear me out in it, thou just Spirit of Equality, which hast spread one royal mantle of humanity over all my kind! Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God!…Thou who didst pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a warhorse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all Thy mighty earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from the kingly commons; bear me out in it, O God!”To such an invocation of Jackson on behalf of the democratic ideal, one can only say, Amen, O God, Amen. — Robert Remini in the conclusion of “Andrew Jackson : The Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845″
  • I have been invited to speak on Heroes of History, a subject about which it is very easy for professional historians to be cynical. And that is a great mistake because there are a great many genuine heroes in American history, starting at the very beginning and coming down to the present. I am thinking in particular of the heroes of 9/11, the astronauts of the space ship, Columbia, and the soldiers who fought and are fighting in Iraq.The question immediately arises as to what constitutes heroism. How can a hero be defined? Each person will have his or her own definition, but to me heroes are those who have performed extraordinary sacrifices for the benefit of others, and most especially for their country.This past year I was fortunate to be invited by the Library of Congress to undertake the writing of the history of the United States House of Representatives. I will start with the First Congress and continue to the present 108th. In researching and writing that book, I have been amazed by what the members of the First Congress accomplished, not only by the fact that they were mostly “ordinary” men, most of whom are obscure today, but how through heroic efforts they breathed life into the Constitution and helped create a republic that has not only survived, but prospered to an extraordinary extent. — Robert V. Remini “Ordinary heroes: Founders of our republic,” July 2003
  • The House really needs somebody who can remind them of all of the great traditions, the history of the institution. This is how you come to really love the place, by knowing more about it and how it evolved. — Robert Remini on his commission by the Library of Congress to write history of the House.

About Robert V. Remini

  • “Robert Remini, the Jackson biographer who has also turned out works on John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, said that only recently had he realized that he’s never written history, just biographies. Even his newest project, a history of the Congress, is really a “series of biographies.” He said he finds it easy to write. It’s the rewriting that’s hard. ‘I was trained by Jesuits and you were rewarded if you did good and punished if you did bad. I decided that I had to write nine pages a day. And if I did I got a martini. If not, I didn’t. Now I take a martini whether I’ve written or not’ (laughter). Remini, who by now had the crowd in stitches, said there’s one chief advantage of biographies. ‘For one thing there’s a beginning and an end. He dies.’ — Rick Shenkman in HNN’s “Reporter’s Notebook: Highlights from the 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association”
  • “The appointment of professor Robert Remini to the House Historian position is a magnificent choice. From my experience as House Historian, I know that the Representatives themselves and the public at large, not to mention historians in particular, believe that the person with the title of historian should be someone who has devoted his life to history, not to the study of politics and political institutions. In Robert Remini the House not only has a Historian, but a great historian. In fact, Remini is one of our greatest living American historians. He is one of the legends. He is author of a monumental biography of Andrew Jackson, and for years has been widely considered our most accomplished Jackson scholar. Furthermore, Remini has written numerous books on the Jackson period and on the fundamental issues and questions of American history. He is beyond question superbly qualified to be Historian of the House of Representatives.” — Christina Jeffrey, Visiting Professor of Politics, Coastal Carolina University in Roll Call
  • “In introducing his magisterial biography of Daniel Webster, Robert Remini laments the creeping historical illiteracy that threatens to engulf Webster and his contemporaries. All the more reason, then, to be grateful to Professor Remini, the nation’s leading Jacksonian scholar, for reminding us of a time when eminent historians still wrote for the general educated reader. Remini’s research is impeccable, his storytelling on a par with his outsized subject. And what a story he has to tell.” — Richard Norton Smith on “Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time”
  • “With this book, Robert V. Remini has completed his trio of biographies of the great political leaders of the Middle Period: Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and now Daniel Webster. Remini seems never to have met an anecdote he didn’t like. Alas, a good many of dubious authenticity found their way into this volume. The story of how Webster demanded an apology from the eminent lawyer William Pinckney for insulting him during arguments before the Supreme Court, for example, does not ring true. ‘Now I am here to say to you, once for all, that you must ask my pardon, and go into court tomorrow morning and repeat the apology,’ Webster supposedly told Pinckney, ‘or else either you or I will go out of this room in a different condition from that in which we entered it,’ at which Pinckney ‘trembled like an aspen leaf.’ It also seems hard to believe that after Webster’s notable reply to Hayne, another Southern senator said to him, ‘Mr. Webster, I think you had better die now, and rest your fame on that speech,’ whereupon Hayne himself declared: ‘You ought not to die: a man who can make such speeches as that ought never to die.’ Still, such tales enrich the narrative, and perhaps they illustrate a deeper truth. This life of Black Dan the Godlike Daniel is undoubtedly the fullest and the best that we will have for a long time to come.” — James McPherson, Princeton University on “Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time”

Basic Facts

Teaching Positions: University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Chicago, professor of history, 1965-91, research professor of humanities, 1985-91, professor of history emeritus and research professor of humanities emeritus, 1991–; chairman of department, 1965-66 and 1967-71, director of Institute for the Humanities, 1981-87.
Wofford College, 1998.
University of Notre Dame, 1995-96.
Robert V.  Remini JPG Douglas Southall Freeman Professor of History, University of Richmond, 1992.
Jilin University of Technology, China, 1986.
Fordham University, New York City, instructor, 1947-51, assistant professor, 1951-59, associate professor of American history, 1959-65.
Visiting lecturer, Columbia University, 1959-60.

Area of Research: 19th century U.S. History; Presidential History; American statesmen; including John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay. He is especially well known for his works about Andrew Jackson and Jacksonian America.

Education: Fordham University, B.S., 1943; Columbia University, M.A., 1947, Ph.D., 1951.

Major Publications:

Sole Author:

  • Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party, (Columbia University Press, 1959).
  • The Election of Andrew Jackson, (Lippincott, 1963).
  • Andrew Jackson, (Twayne, 1966).
  • Andrew Jackson and the Bank War: A Study in the Growth of Presidential Power, (Norton, 1968).
  • The Revolutionary Age of Andrew Jackson, (Harper, 1977).
  • Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821, (Harper, 1977).
  • Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822-1832, (Harper, 1981).
  • Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845, (Harper, 1984).
  • The Life of Andrew Jackson (includes 1767-1821, 1822-1832, and 1833-1845), Harper, 1988, published as Andrew Jackson, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).
  • The Legacy of Andrew Jackson: Essays in Democracy, Indian Removal and Slavery, (Louisiana State University Press, 1988).
  • The Jacksonian Era, (Harlan Davidson, 1989), second edition, 1997).
  • The Legacy of Andrew Jackson: Essays on Democracy, Indian Removal and Slavery (Walter Lynwood Fleming Lectures in Southern History), (Louisiana State University Press, 1990)
  • Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union, (Norton, 1991).
  • Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time ,(Norton, 1997), also published as Daniel Webster: A Conservative in a Democratic Age, (Norton, 1997).
  • The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America’s First Military Victory, (Viking, 1999).
  • Andrew Jackson & His Indian Wars, (Viking, 2001).
  • John Quincy Adams, (Times Books, 2002).
  • Joseph Smith, (Viking, 2002).
  • The House : The History of the House of Representatives, (Collins, May 2006)

Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Editor and author of introduction and notes) Dixon Ryan Fox, The Decline of Aristocracy in the Politics of New York, 1801-1840, (Harper, 1965).
  • (Editor and author of introduction and notes) James Parton, The Presidency of Andrew Jackson, (Harper, 1966).
  • (Contributor) Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Fred L. Israel, editors, History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1968, Volume I, (McGraw, 1971).
  • (Editor) The Age of Jackson, (University of South Carolina Press, 1972).
  • (With James I. Clark) Freedom’s Frontiers: The Story of The American People, Benzinger (Beverly Hills, CA), 1975.
  • (With Clark) We the People: A History of the United States, Glencoe (Beverly Hills, CA), 1975.
  • (Compiler with Edwin A. Miles) The Era of Good Feelings and the Age of Jackson, (AHM, 1979).
  • (With Robert O. Rupp) Andrew Jackson: A Bibliography, (Meckler, 1991).
  • (Author of historical overview) Sara Day, editor, Gathering History: The Marian S. Carson Collection of Americana, (Library of Congress, 1999).
  • (With Fred W. Beuttler, Melvin G. Holli), University of Illinois at Chicago (The College History Series), (Arcadia Publishing, 2000)
  • Consulting editor, The Papers of Andrew Jackson.
  • Additionally, Contributor to Encyclopaedia Britannica, and to professional journals. Member of editorial board, Journal of American History, 1969-72.

Awards:

  • The Freedom Award, The U.S. Capitol Historical Society (2004), Remini was honored for his lifelong work in historical scholarship and his current efforts in writing a narrative history of the House of Representatives.
  • the American Historical Association’s Award for Scholarly Distinction
  • Commissioned aide-de-camp and Tennessee Colonel by governor of Tennessee, 1992.
  • Society of Midland Authors Award, 1992, for Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union; commissioned Kentucky Colonel by governor of Kentucky, 1992.
  • Honorary degrees from Governor’s State University, 1989, Eastern Kentucky University, 1992, and Fordham University, 1993.
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation Award.
  • Carl Sandburg Award, 1989, for The Life of Andrew Jackson.
  • University Scholar Award, University of Illinois, 1986.
  • Friends of Literature Award, 1985.
  • National Book Award in nonfiction, 1984, for Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845.
  • Guggenheim fellow, 1978-79.
  • Huntington Library fellowship, 1978.
  • Friends of American Writers Award of Merit, 1977.
  • Encaenia Award, Fordham University, 1963.
  • Grant-in-aid, American Council of Learned Societies, 1960, and American Philosophical Society, 1964.

Additional Info: In May 2005 named House historian.
In September 2002 named Distinguished Visiting Scholar of American History in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress; Remini will research and write a narrative history of the U.S. House of Representatives. (The project was authorized by Congress in 1999 under the House Awareness and Preservation Act (P.L. 106-99))
Remini is a much sought after speaker and is hailed for his ability to make history “come alive.”
Honorary historian of Thirteen-Fifty Foundation.
Remini was named to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.
Remini has served as a review board member for the National Endowment for the Humanities since 1974.
He was selected by President George Bush in 1991 to speak at the White House as part of the Presidential Lecture Series on the Presidency and has been invited by President George W. Bush as well.
Special editor, Crowell-Collier Educational Corp.
Military service: U.S. Navy, 1943-46; became lieutenant.

History Buzz January 27, 2013: Stanley Karnow: Journalist and Vietnam historian, dies at 87

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Stanley Karnow, journalist and Vietnam historian, dies

Source: WaPo. 1-27-13

Jacquelyn Martin/AP – Author and journalist Stanley Karnow, seen here in his Potomac, Md., home, died Jan. 27. He was 87.

The New York-born Karnow launched his career as a foreign correspondent after setting sail for Europe on a coal freighter a week after graduating in 1947 from Harvard University. He subsequently became known for his distinguished coverage of the Vietnam War, first for Time magazine and later for news outlets that included the Saturday Evening Post, The Washington Post and NBC News.Filing dispatches from the Far East for nearly 15 years — from the earliest days of American casualties in Vietnam — he became one of an elite handful of influential journalists who challenged the official stance in Washington that the United States was easily controlling the “struggle.”

His Emmy-winning 13-part PBS series “Vietnam: A Television History” was one of the most widely viewed public-television documentaries ever when it first aired in 1983; his companion book, “Vietnam: A History,” sold millions of copies and was praised for its insight and comprehensiveness.

In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines,” the book for which he received the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in history, earned praise as the best popular history of America’s relationship with the Philippines. Mr. Karnow synthesized three centuries of Filipino foreign relations into what critics described as a compelling read, with vivid portraits of the Spanish, American and Filipino leaders who shaped the country that would be the United States’ only colony….READ MORE

History Buzz January 3, 2013: Gerda Lerner: Women’s studies pioneer and University of Wisconsin professor emerita, dies at 92

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Gerda Lerner, women’s studies pioneer and UW professor emerita, dies at 92

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, 1-3-13

Gerda Lerner

Gerda Lerner

State Journal archives

“The history of women had been forgotten, oppressed, silenced and marginalized until the last 30 years. I’m one of the people that helped bring that history alive, to point out it was valid and important,” Gerda Lerner said in 2002, five years after this photo was taken. The pioneer of women’s studies died Wednesday night in Madison at age 92.

Enlarge Photo

Long before Gerda Lerner helped redefine the study of history to give women a more prominent place in it and before she established the doctorate program in U.S. women’s history at UW-Madison in the 1980s, she had to live through one of history’s worst horrors and — barely — survive it.

Lerner (then Kronstein), who died Wednesday night in Madison at age 92, spent her 18th birthday in a Nazi jail in Vienna expecting death and being fed food scraps by two gentile cellmates after authorities cut rations to Jews.

“They taught me how to survive,” Lerner told the State Journal in 2001. “Everything I needed to get through the rest of my life I learned in jail in those six weeks.”

Lerner, UW-Madison professor emerita of women’s studies, was able to escape alone to New York in the late 1930s. Decades later she started an academic career as a historian of women who led a movement almost from its infancy, eventually writing 11 books, earning 18 honorary degrees and in 2002 becoming the first woman recipient of the prestigious Bruce Catton Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Historical Writing from the Society of American Historians.

“She’s one of two people from what you might call the eldest generation of this wave of women’s history,” said Linda Gordon, a New York University professor who taught women’s history at UW-Madison with Lerner in the 1980s and 1990s. “She had an enormous influence.”…READ MORE

History Buzz April 4, 2012: Paul S. Boyer: History Doyen & Professor Studied Atomic Bomb & Salem Witch Trials dies at 76

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Paul S. Boyer, 76, Dies; Historian Studied A-Bomb and Witches

Source: NYT, 4-2-12

 

Prof. Paul S. Boyer

Paul Boyer, an intellectual historian who wrote groundbreaking studies of the Salem witch trials, the history of apocalyptic movements and the response of the U.S. public to the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, died March 17 in Madison, Wis. He was 76.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Ann.

Boyer, a professor of U.S. history at the University of Wisconsin from 1980 until his retirement in 2002, was known for his research on the religious underpinnings of American culture, and especially for his interest in how Americans respond to perceived existential threats.

He first received wide notice in 1974 with “Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft,” which suggested that social envy motivated many of the accusers in the 17th-century witch trials.

That book, written with Stephen Nissenbaum, made innovative use of historic land records and tax receipts to show that in many cases the accused were members of Salem’s social establishment, if only peripherally, while their accusers were lower-ranking citizens who had tangled with the victims over financial matters.

The book so radically changed the previous historical understanding of the episode, said a reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement of London, “that virtually all the previous treatment can be consigned to the historical lumber room.”

In 1978, his “Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920” explored the way U.S. leaders and immigrants came to grips with what they saw as the loosening of behavioral norms caused by immigrants’ loss of traditional ties to institutions like church and family. Critics across the political spectrum praised the book, although their interpretations of Boyer’s nuanced findings varied widely.

Writing in The New York Times, the neoconservative urban affairs writer Roger Starr saw the book as Boyer’s endorsement of the need for “traditional values and modes of behavior” in modern urban life. In the left-leaning magazine The Nation, the cultural historian Thomas Bender described it as an account of the well-meaning but largely unsuccessful efforts of reformers to provide immigrants with a moral order “that was receding irretrievably into the past.”

In 1992, Boyer’s “When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture” was somewhat ahead of the pack in identifying the growing power of fundamentalist religious groups in the United States, and explaining how their millennial views were becoming incorporated into mainstream political views about international affairs.

Helped spark the anti-nuke movement

Boyer, a lifelong pacifist raised in the Brethren in Christ Church, an offshoot of the Mennonites, was probably best known for two books about the long-term cultural impact of the United States’ decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, at the end of World War II.

“By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age” (1985) and “Fallout” (1998), a collection of a half-century of his essays, described the bomb’s impact on the American psyche, culture and politics. Among the threads Boyer traced was how the bomb impelled a generation of scientists to political activism, which helped spark the broad-based anti-nuclear movement of the 1950s and indirectly paved the way for activism against the war in Vietnam in the 1960s….READ MORE

HISTORY DOYEN PROFILE

Source: Bonnie K. Goodman, HNN, 9-3-2007

What They’re Famous For

Paul Boyer, a U.S. cultural and intellectual historian (Ph.D., Harvard University, 1966) is Merle Curti Professor of History Emeritus and former director (1993-2001) of the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has held visiting professorships at UCLA, Northwestern University, and William & Mary; has received Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships; and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of American Paul S. Boyer JPG Historians, and the American Antiquarian Society. Before coming to Wisconsin in 1980, he taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (1967-1980).

He has lectured at some 90 colleges and universities in the United States, Western Europe, and Israel. He has appeared on programs on the Public Broadcasting System, National Public Radio, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting System, and others.

His publications include: Purity in Print: Book Censorship in America from the Gilded Age to the Computer Age (1968; 2nd edition with two new chapters, 2002); He was the Asst. editor of Notable American Women, 1600-1950 (3 vols., 1971); co-authored with Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (1974); Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920 (1978); By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (1985); When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (1992); Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter With Nuclear Weapons (1998). He was the editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to United States History (2001).

Salem Possessed won the John H. Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association and was nominated for a National Book Award. When Time Shall Be No More received the Banta Award of the Wisconsin Library Association for literary achievement by a Wisconsin author. The Oxford Companion to United States History was a main selection of History Book Club.

Boyer is the author or co-author of two college-level U.S. history textbooks, The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People (6th edition, 2007); and Promises to Keep: The United States Since 1945 (3rd edn., 2004), and a high-school U.S. history textbook: The American Nation (4nd edn., 2002). His scholarly articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, American Quarterly, American Literary History, The History Teacher, Virginia Quarterly Review, William & Mary Quarterly, and others. He has contributed numerous chapters to scholarly collections and encyclopedia entries, and lectured widely at colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Book World, the New Republic, The Nation, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Wisconsin Academy Review, Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Tikkun, Policy Review, and other publications.

Active in the Organization of American Historians, he has chaired its Program Committee (1987-88); served on its Nominating Council (1992-94) and Executive Board (1995-98) and on the editorial board of the Journal of American History (1980-83). He served on the national advisory board of the public television series The American Experience and edits the Studies in American Thought and Culture series for the University of Wisconsin Press (1984-94, 2002–). His service on prize committees includes the John Hope Franklin Prize of the American Studies Association, the Phi Beta Kappa Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize, and the ABC-Clio Award Committee of the Organization of American Historians.

Boyer chaired the Wisconsin Humanities Council in 2004-06. Biographical entries appear in Who’s Who in American Education and Contemporary Authors.

Personal Anecdote

Family stories were my first introduction to history-not articles or books, but lived experience: a great-uncle killed at Antietam; grandmothers’ tales of late-nineteenth-century Ohio farm life; my father’s account of losing his job during World War I for refusing to salute the flag when co-workers demanded that he do so. My paternal grandfather was a great repository of stories about the past, including his boyhood memories of President Garfield’s assassination in 1881.

Paul S Boyer JPG

Paul Boyer is seated in the front row, second from left, next to his grandfather.

My future perspective as a historian was influenced, too, by my very conservative religious upbringing. The Brethren in Christ church, an offshoot of the Mennonite church, took seriously the biblical injunction”Be not conformed to this world.” The members did not vote, generally refused military service, and dressed very plainly-no neckties for the men; head coverings, cape dresses, and dark stockings for the women. They avoided the movies and other worldly amusements, and viewed the secular power of the state with profound skepticism. I’m no longer a part of that subculture (which in any event is very different today), but its influence has shaped my life and work.

A grade-school teacher in Dayton, Ohio taught me that history is something people can feel passionate about. A southerner, she informed us in no uncertain terms:”If you get nothing else out of this class, just remember that slavery was NOT the cause of the Civil War.” But I can’t claim that the study of history initially gripped me very deeply. My copy of David Saville Muzzey’s A History of Our Country, assigned in a high-school class, is full of my scribbled drawings and witticisms (e.g.,”In Case of Fire, throw this in”). The teacher called him”Fuzzy Muzzey,” signaling us that even textbook writers need not be viewed with total reverence. Now a textbook author myself, I appreciate Muzzey a little more. He writes in his preface:”Boys and girls have sometimes said to me that they have ‘had’ American history, as if it were measles or chicken pox, which they could have and get over and be henceforth immune from. … Do not for a moment think that you are `going over’ American history again in high school in order to add a few more dates and names to your memory. You are studying a new and fresh subject, not because American history has changed, but because you have changed. … You are getting new outlooks on life,–new ambitions, new enthusiasms, new judgments of people and events. Life broadens and deepens for you. So history, which is the record of former people’s ambitions and enthusiasms, comes to have a new meaning for you.”

After high school I enrolled at Upland College in California, a small denominational school that has since closed. Wendell Harmon, who had written his Ph.D. thesis at UCLA on the Prohibition movement in California, taught U.S. history at Upland. Wendell had a skeptical turn of mind and a dry sense of humor. His classes, including a seminar on American Transcendentalism, jolted me into realizing that studying history could be intellectually engaging, even fun. In June 1955, preparing to leave for two years of voluntary service in Europe with the Mennonite Central Committee, I asked Wendell for reading suggestions. His list included Richard Hofstadter’s The American Political Tradition (1948). I devoured the book, writing on the flyleaf words that were new to me (salient, milieu, inchoate, sinecure, ubiquitous). Hofstadter’s cool-eyed revisionist look at America’s political heroes was eye-opening. There is no canonical version of history-all is up for grabs! My copy of this 95-cent Vintage paperback, now falling apart, is still in my library.

Paul S Boyer JPG

My two years in Europe-mostly spent in Paris on loan from the Mennonite Central Committee to an NGO at UNESCO–ended with a world trip via ships, trains, buses, and bicycles. On a train in India I met Gloria Steinem, just out of Smith College, also on a Wanderjahr. A comment she later made about how the trip affected her summed up my reactions as well: Eisenhower’s America, rich and complacent, she said, seemed like a sugary cupcake perched atop a suffering world where most people struggle merely to survive. Practicing my writing skills, I wrote a series of travel essays for the Evangelical Visitor, the Brethren in Christ denominational paper. The editorial board voted me an honorarium of fifty dollars. Another eye-opener: writing could actually produce income!

Those two and a half years abroad proved transformative. In 1955 I had expected to go into my father’s religious-supply business. By 1958, when I entered Harvard as a transfer student, I knew I was not cut out for business. Journalism and teaching seemed appealing, but in a fairly inchoate way. What to major in? I considered English, but History soon won out. The department had a tutorial system for majors, and in 1958-59 I took both the sophomore and junior tutorials. My sophomore tutor, Stanley Katz, was a terrific mentor. We discussed and wrote papers on historians from Herodotus to Marc Bloch, executed by the Gestapo in 1944. Rereading those papers, I’m impressed again by Stan’s blend of encouragement and shrewd criticism. My junior tutor, Manfred Jonas, although busy writing his Ph.D. thesis on American isolationism in the 1930s, carefully read my weekly essays on U.S. historical topics, offering perceptive comments. William R. Taylor’s stimulating course in American historiography introduced me to Prescott, Parkman, and other classic historians and prose stylists.

My senior-thesis advisor, Roger Brown, steered me to a fascinating topic: the Federalist party’s reaction to the Louisiana Purchase. Research at the Massachusetts and Connecticut historical societies gave me a first taste of using primary sources in a milieu redolent of the past. (One elderly lady at the Connecticut Historical Society asked where I was from. When I told her Ohio, she replied,”Oh yes, Western Reserve country.”) To my great excitement, Roger Brown mentioned my thesis in a footnote in his 1964 book The Republic in Peril: 1812.

Finishing college in 1960, I entered Harvard’s graduate history program that fall. In Frank Freidel’s seminar on the 1920s, I choose book censorship in Boston as my research topic. That in turn, led to my first published article (American Quarterly, spring 1963); my Ph.D. thesis on book censorship in America (with Freidel as advisor); and my first book, Purity in Print. Freidel returned my thesis draft with a few stylistic suggestions on the first few pages.”You see the kinds of changes I’m suggesting,” he breezily told me;”You can apply them to the rest of the thesis.” I’m fairly sure he never read beyond those early pages. (On one page, he had marked a sentence to be cut and then changed his mind, scribbling”stet” in the margin: a printer’s term meaning”restore this copy.” In dismay I misread it as”shit,” concluding that my dissertation director considered my work beneath contempt.)

Inviting the seminar to his home for our last meeting, Freidel offered us career advice. Our first job would probably be at some obscure school, he told us, and our sole objective must be to move to ever-more prestigious institutions through our publications.”Your students will want your attention, and your wife will ask you to do things with the family,” he warned,”but you must ignore all that and concentrate on publishing.”

In Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s course in American intellectual history, Schlesinger read his lectures from what appeared to be page proofs, pausing occasionally to correct a typo. When he departed for Washington after the 1960 election, newly-hired Donald Fleming inherited the course, delivering erudite, beautifully crafted lectures. (My paper on Andrew Carnegie in that course became a lecture that remained in my own intellectual-history course until I retired.) I later graded for Fleming, reading blue books far into the night.

The European intellectual historian H. Stuart Hughes strongly supported SANE, the nuclear-test-ban organization. When I took his course in fall 1962, he was running as an independent for the U.S. Senate on a nuclear-disarmament platform. (Ted Kennedy won.) Sitting in Hughes’ class on October 24, as the U.S. blockade of Soviet vessels bound for Cuba went into effect, we all eyed the clock nervously. Hughes’ example as a politically engaged academic probably influenced my own later small-scale participation in Vietnam War protests and the early-1980s’ nuclear- weapons freeze campaign.

We graduate students flocked to Bernard Bailyn’s lecture course and seminar in American colonial history. At the first seminar meeting, Bailyn proposed a list of research topics. By chance, I got the last choice: a 1754 Massachusetts excise-tax controversy. It seemed unpromising, but actually proved engrossing, particularly the pamphlets describing how lecherous tax collectors would ravish the wives and daughters of virtuous yeomen. The pamphleteers also made ubiquitous references to a 1733 excise-tax controversy in England. When I reported this to Bailyn, he responded with a chuckle that he, too, had noticed that connection, and had put his notes aside for future attention. That seminar paper became my second published article (William and Mary Quarterly, July 1964). Years later, after I had published three or four books, I encountered Bailyn at a convention and he greeted me with:”You know, I see citations to that William and Mary Quarterly article of yours all the time.”

Especially salient among these formative influences were Edward and Janet James, the editor and associate editor of a biographical reference work on American women launched in 1955 at the impetus of Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. (Today the positions would likely be reversed, with Janet as editor, but this was the 1950s.) Ed was a very methodical editor, and by 1961 a large back-log of essays had built up. Ed hired history grad students as fact-checkers, and I became one of his minions. I enjoyed roaming Widener Library in quest of elusive facts, in the process learning about the history of women in America-a subject mostly ignored in my undergraduate and graduate training. As I drafted revisions to correct errors or incorporate new information, and sometimes even ventured to rewrite an entire essay, Ed expanded my duties and gave me a desk in his office. Here I edited hundreds of essays (typing and retyping them in that pre-computer era) and wrote twenty-one myself, from Helena Blavatsky to Frances Wright. Ed and Janet generously appointed me assistant editor, so when Harvard University Press published Notable American Women in three volumes in 1971, my name appeared on the title page along with theirs. This editing and writing experience, immersion in women’s history, and exposure to Ed James’s meticulous attention to detail made my time at Notable American Women an important part-perhaps the most important part-of my graduate training.

By 1967, with Ph.D. in hand, it was time to find a teaching job. Notable American Women was fun, but obviously no lifetime sinecure. I had married Ann Talbot, then a student at Radcliffe College, in 1962, and now our first child was on the way. We hoped to stay in New England, so on a map I drew a semicircle around Boston with a radius of about a hundred miles and sent letters to history departments where I thought I might have a shot. Soon after, Howard Quint, the head of the History Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, phoned and invited me out. Howard rounded up a few department members and I gave a”job talk” that consisted of summarizing my Ph.D. thesis. He took me to meet the dean, and after they chatted briefly, Howard offered me a job at the munificent salary of $10,000 a year. That’s how things worked in those days.

Paul S Boyer JPG

Antiwar protests and a factionalized department made those early years of teaching the most intense of my career. With campus strikes, moratoria, and marches on Washington, every spring semester from 1967 to 1970 ended with classes disrupted or cancelled entirely. Rashly signing up to give a workshop on Vietnamese history, I crammed the evening before from a book by Bernard B. Fall (killed in Vietnam in 1967). I expected ten or twelve people; the hall was packed. Another evening, several of us led a teach-in on the war in a campus dormitory. As the discussion went on, a young woman said tearfully:”My brother was just killed in Vietnam. Are you telling us this war is wrong?” Again I was reminded that”history” is not just something that we write about. History happens to people.

Just as I was becoming resigned to a life of departmental feuding, cancelled classes, and campus protests, the activism suddenly ended in the fall of 1970. The departmental conflict subsided as well, and my remaining years at UMass brought much satisfaction, with great colleagues, interesting research (including a collaboration with Steve Nissenbaum on Salem Possessed), and rewarding teaching. My graduate training had included no classroom experience and indeed no attention to pedagogy at all, so these years involved a lot of on-the-job training. Fortunately, I found that I loved teaching, whether lecture courses, seminars, or one-on-one meetings with students. (Grading blue books I could have done without.)

New experiences, new projects, and many changes lay ahead, but a course had been set, and I’ve never regretted how it all turned out. I can’t imagine a more satisfying life, and seeing one’s students set sail on their own, in history or other fields, is perhaps the greatest reward of all.

Quotes

By Paul Samuel Boyer

  • If a scholar a thousand years from now had no evidence about what had happened in the United States between 1945 and 1985 except the books produced by the cultural and intellectual historians of that era, he or she would hardly guess that such a thing as nuclear weapons had existed. … We have somehow managed to avert our attention from the pervasive impact of the bomb on … our collective experience….[P]eculiarities in my background … might plausibly be seen as having particularly ‘sensitized’ me to issues of war and peace. Reared in the pacifist beliefs of the Brethren in Christ Church …, I had early heard stories from my father of the harassment and even physical abuse he had experienced as a war resister in 1917-18…. Yet … I suspect it is not my particular upbringing, but experiences that I share with most Americans of the postwar generation, that are relevant here. Even a few random probes of my nuclear consciousness have made clear to me how significantly my life has been influenced by the ever-present reality of the bomb: … [T]he afternoon of August 6, 1945, when I read aloud the ominous-looking newspaper headline, mispronouncing the new word as”a-tome,” since I had never heard anyone say it; … Standing in a darkened room early in 1947, squinting into my atomic-viewer ring, straining to see the”swirling atoms” the Kix Cereal people had assure me would be visible; … Coming out of a Times Square movie theater at midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1959, having just seen the end of the world in On the Beach, overwhelmed by the sheer aliveness of the raucous celebrators; … Feeling the knot tighten in my stomach as President Kennedy, in that staccato voice, tells us we must all build fallout shelters as quickly as possible; … Watching the clock in Emerson Hall creep up toward 11 A.M. on October 25, 1962—Kennedy’s deadline to the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis—half expecting a cataclysmic flash when the hour struck; … Overhearing my daughter’s friend recently telling how her little sister hid under the bed when searchlights probed the sky a few nights earlier(a supermarket was having a grand opening), convinced that the missiles were about to fall. ….

    Even my sense of ancestral rootedness is now interwoven with images of nuclear menace and danger. In the summer of 1978, my brother Bill and I, finding ourselves together in Pennsylvania, took a little excursion to find the cemetery where some of our forebears who had migrated from [Switzerland] in the 1750s were buried. As we drove southward from Harrisburg along the Susquehanna, the looming concrete bulk of a nuclear power plant—Three Mile Island—suddenly hove into view. Almost literally in the shadows of those squat, hideous—and soon to be famous—towers, we found the small burial plot we were seeking. …

    I have been repeatedly struck … at how uncannily familiar much of the early response to the bomb seems: the visions of atomic devastation, the earnest efforts to rouse people to resist such a fate, the voices seeking to soothe or deflect these fears, the insistence that security lay in greater technical expertise and in more and bigger weaponry. I gradually realized that what I was uncovering was, in fact, the earliest version of the themes that still dominate our nuclear discourse today. All the major elements of our contemporary engagement with the nuclear reality took shape literally within days of Hiroshima. … By the Bomb’s Early Light, then, is an effort to go back to the earliest stages of our long engagement with nuclear weapons. Unless we recover this lost segment of our cultural history, we cannot fully understand the world in which we live, nor be as well equipped as we might to change it. …

    As is appropriate, this book will be read and judged by my professional peers as a piece of scholarship like any other. I hope it will not seem presumptuous to say that it is also intended as a contribution, however flawed, to the process by which we are again, at long last, trying to confront, emotionally as well as intellectually, the supreme menace of our age. Henry Adams once wrote,”No honest historian can take part with—or against—the forces he has to study. To him, even the extinction of the human race should merely be a fact to be grouped with other vital statistics.” I readily confess that I have not achieved Adams’s austere standard of professional objectivity. This book is a product of experiences outside the library as well as inside, and it is not the work of a person who can view the prospect of human extinction with scholarly detachment. –
    Paul S. Boyer from the introduction to”By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age” (1985)

“By Paul S. Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum

  • If the large concepts with which historians conventionally deal are to have any meaning, it is only as they can be made manifest in individual cases like these. The problems which confronted Salem Village in fact encompassed some of the central issues of New England society in the late seventeenth century: the resistance of back-country farmers to the pressures of commercial capitalism and the social style that accompanied it; the breaking away of outlying areas from parent towns; difficulties between ministers and their congregations; the crowding of third- generation sons from family lands; the shifting locus of authority within individual communities and society as a whole; the very quality of life in an unsettled age. But for men like Samuel Parris and Thomas Putnam, Jr., these issues where not abstractions. They emerged as upsetting personal encounters with people like Israel Porter and Daniel Andrew, and as unfavorable decisions handed down in places like Boston and Salem Town. JPG It was in 1692 that these men for the first time attempted (just as we are attempting in this book) to piece together the shards of their experience, to shape their malaise into some broader theoretical pattern, and to comprehend the full dimensions of thoses forces which they vaguely sensed were shaping their private destinies. Oddly enough, it has been through our sense of” collaborating” with Parris and the Putnams in their effort to delineate the larger contours of their world, and our sympathy, at least on the level of metaphor, with certain of their perceptions, that we have come to feel a curious bond with the”witch hunters” of 1692.

    But one advantage we as outsiders have had over the people off Salem Village is that we can afford to recognize the degree to which the menace they were fighting off had taken root within each of them almost as deeply as it had in Salem Town or along the Ipswich Road. It is at this level, indeed, that we have most clearly come to recognize the implications of their travail for our understanding of what might be called the Puritan temper during the final, often intense, and occasionally lurid efflorescence which signaled the end of its century-long history. For Samuel Parrish and Thomas Putnam, Jr., were part of a vast company, on both sides of the Atlantic, who were trying to expunge the lure of the new order from their own souls by doing battle with it in the real world. While this company of Puritans were not purveyors of the spirit of capitalism that historians once made them out to be, neither were they simple peasants clinging blindly to the imagined security of a receding medieval culture. What seems above all to characterize them, and even help define their identity as”Puritans” is the precarious way in which they managed to inhabit both these worlds at once.

    The inner tensions that shaped the Puritan temper were inherent in it from the very start, but rarely did they emerge with such raw force as in 1692, in little Salem Village. For here was a community in which these tensions were exacerbated by a tangle of external circumstances: a community so situated geographically that its inhabitants experienced two different economic systems, two different ways of life, at unavoidably close range; and so structured politically that it was next to impossible to locate, either within the Village or outside it, a dependable and unambiguous center of authority which might hold in check the effects of these accidents of geography.

    The spark which finally set off this volatile mix came with the unlikely convergence of a set of chance factors in the early 1690′s: the arrival of a new minister who brought with him a slave acquainted with West Indian voodoo lore; the heightened interest throughout New England in fortune telling and the occult, taken up in Salem Village by an intense group of adolescent girls related by blood and faction to the master of that slave; the coming of age Joseph Putnam, who bore the name of one of Salem Village’s two controlling families while owing his allegiance to the other; the political and legal developments in Boston and London which hamstrung provincial authorities for several crucial months in 1692.

    But beyond these proximate causes lie the deeper and more inexorable ones we have already discussed. For in the witchcraft outburst in Salem Village, perhaps the most exceptional event in American colonial history, certainly the most bizarre, one finds laid bare the central concerns of the era.
    Paul S. Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum in”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”

About Paul Samuel Boyer

  • Salem Possessed is a provocative book. Drawing upon an impressive range of unpublished local sources, Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum provide a challenging new interpretation of the outbreak of witchcraft in Salem Village. The authors argue that previous historians erroneously divorced the tragic events of 1692 from the long-term development of the village and therefore failed to realize that the witch trials were simply one particularly violent chapter in a series of local controversies dating back to the 1660s. In their reconstruction of the socio-economic conditions that contributed to the intense factionalism in Salem Village, Boyer and Nissenbaum have made a major contribution to the social history of colonial New England….
    Boyer and Nissenbaum have provided us with a first-rate discussion of factionalism in a seventeenth-century New England community. Their handling of economic, familial, and spatial relationships within Salem Village is both sophisticated and imaginative. But the dynamics of witchcraft, not only in Salem Village but also in other Massachusetts towns affected by the outbreak of 1692, still remain a mystery. — T. H. Breen, Northwestern University in”The William and Mary Quarterly,” reviewing”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”
  • Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum have made great contributions to our better understanding of the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. Their first book, Salem Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England (1972). brought together diverse materials dealing with the outbreak of witchcraft and the trials; Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (1974). was an attempt to place the events of 1692 within the larger context of Salem’s social, economic, and political history. This study relied primarily upon community records and family documents, including wills, deeds, and inventories. The Salem Witchcraft Papers is the most recent and most valuable product of Boyer’s and Nissenbaum’s collaborative research in this important episode of New England history….
    The Salem Witchcraft Papers is an important addition to the growing body of primary and secondary material dealing with the Salem witchcraft scare. Boyer and Nissenbaum have done a great service to all students of early New England history by publishing an important collection that has lain dormant for more than forty years. The ultimate value of the work, however, will be its use as a source book by future historians who seek a better understanding of the Salem witchcraft episode. — Paula A. Treckel in”The New England Quarterly” reviewing”The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692″
  • “that witchcraft charges . . . were brought principally by members and friends of the tribe with cause for envy, and directed principally against minor members or peripheral connections of the enviable group…. the recent history and practical circumstances which permitted such action are explored, and the whole approach to the Salem disaster is canny, rewarding, and sure to fascinate readers interested in that aberrant affair.” — Phoebe Adams in”Atlantic” reviewing”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”
  • “offers an illuminating and imaginative interpretation . . . of the social and moral state of Salem Village in 1692 . . . . It has the extra recommendation of telling a gripping story which builds up to a horrifying climax.” — Keith Thomas in the”New York Review of Books” reviewing”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”
  • “The authors have produced an explanatory scheme which accounts fully for the events of 1692, renders them significant in a much wider context of social and economic change, and yet allows room for the operation of personalities and accidental influences. . . . Salem Possessed reinterprets a world-famous episode so completely and convincingly that virtually all the previous treatment can be consigned to the historical lumberroom.” — Robin Briggs in”Times Literary Supplement” reviewing”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”
  • “In their book”Salem Possessed, The Social Origins of Witchcraft,” Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum present convincing evidence that Salem village, the backwoods adjunct to Salem town in which the accusers lived, was ridden with fear and hatred of the social changes being wrought by mercantile capitalism in the town and especially in Boston. At first, three social outcasts were accused; then some people in the eastern part of the village nearest to and most involved in the new commercialism. Then more and more prominent merchants and politicians were accused in the town, in Boston and eventually in all of Massachusetts. The authors show that on a number of occasions young girls in other Massachusetts communities had bouts of hysteria and that adults turned the affair into religious revivals. Only in Salem, where the adults were themselves paranoiac about the new commercialism, was adolescent hysteria turned – by adults – into a witch hunt, in which the”witches” were, by no accident, prominent”mercantile capitalists.” — ROGER HILSMAN in the New York Times on”Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”
  • “Paul Boyer, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, describes all this with care and nuance and includes much that is less well known: appeals for world government; religious protests; dreams of atomic-powered technology; visions of Utopia and its opposite; advice from the professions; literary, cinematic and musical commentary. The sheer volume of the material is astounding. In this five-year period, education journals alone ran 260 articles relating to the bomb. The problem, Mr. Boyer writes, was”deciding when to turn off the tap”….. As careful as he is with the evidence, Mr. Boyer is clear about where he stands. He tells of his own pacifist origins and readily confesses his inability to follow Henry Adams’s dictum that to the honest historian”even the extinction of the human race should merely be a fact to be grouped with other vital statistics.” His depth of concern comes through in sharp prose….
    A wide-ranging historian who has written important studies of both the Salem witch trials (with Stephen Nissenbaum) and 19th-century urban reform, Mr. Boyer has closely studied the responses earlier Americans made to perceived threats to their well-being. And he does not omit pointing out”how the early discussions of the bomb’s implications often moved in well-worn grooves.” Among these grooves was the fear of concentrations of power (Who will control atomic energy?), worry about mass leisure (What will the masses do when the atom does all the work?), hostility to the city (Ruralization is the answer to atomic threats) and warnings of apocalypse (Repent before the fire consumes us all)….
    In an epilogue, Mr. Boyer brings the story up to date. When the fallout from atmospheric nuclear testing became apparent in the mid-1950′s, it brought about a new round of public concern. This faded away in the wake of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1963 test-ban treaty only to reappear in recent years in the form of hostility to nuclear power, and distress at the Reagan Administration’s lack of enthusiasm for arms control. The current nuclear debate, Mr. Boyer writes, afflicts him with a”sense of deja vu.” Virtually”every theme and image by which we express our nuclear fear today has its counterpart in the immediate post-Hiroshima period,” he writes. It is a depressing thought, for why should what proved ineffectual before not prove ineffectual again? But perhaps the old themes and images are the best we can summon. They may not succeed in removing the threat of nuclear war, but at least they tell us something about who we are. — New York Times Review of”By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age”
  • “If you believed you knew the essentials about the dawn of the atomic age, this book will change your mind. Based on an impressive number of contemporary sources – including newspaper articles, cartoons, press ads, poems, pictures, letters and opinion polls -Boyer outlines the bomb’s sociological and cultural impact on American society from 1945 to the early fifties. Indeed, some strange and surprising connections are revealed, as between the Bikini tests and Hollywood-star Rita Hayworth. His main accomplishment, though, is to show the mixed cultural heritage of the Hiroshima/ Nagasaki incidents; how they created both hopes and fears, selfconfidence and anger, cynicism and guilt. His account of the Atomic Scientists’ Movement is skilled and wellbalanced, as is his unpassionate discourse on the continuing cycles of anti-nuclear activism and apathy. In short, By the Bomb’s Early Light shows the art of socio-intellectual history from its most perceptive and powerful side.” — Olav Njølstad in”Journal of Peace Research”, reviewing”By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age”
  • Of the many books inspired by the 40-year anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, this certainly is one of the best. Boyer, an adept cultural historian, unravels the diverse reactions to the advent of the nuclear era between 1945 and 1950. The enormity of what had occurred caused disorientation among intellectuals and the general public alike. Basic beliefs wavered, contradictions emerged, and attitudes changed in a short period of time. Boyer traces scientific, literary, philosophical, and religious implications of the new weapon, revealing his own wit and commitment as well as historical skill. His neglect of the emergence of Abstract Expressionism as a major cultural response to the bomb stands as one of the few shortcomings in this fine, readable book. Highly recommended — Charles K. Piehl, Director of Grants Management, Mankato State Univ., Minn. in Library Journal reviewing”By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age”
  • “In this thoroughly documented and richly illustrated study Boyer has traced the confusions, the ironies and the sometimes humorous and sometimes tragic effects of American efforts to cope with the question of what is permissible and what is taboo in the public morality and in the printed word. Beginning with a brief but penetrating discussion of the state of these matters at the present time, Boyer goes back to the early 1800s and traces the problem and its self-appointed solvers up to the 1930s. Anthony Comstock and John S. Sumner are given full treatment, as are such defenders of a liberal and enlightened attitude as Mencken and Morris Ernst. Boyer makes frequent mention of the psychological factors which motivated the”purifyers” but his approach is principally historical and sociological. Although there have been many other books and articles written on this basic aspect of American culture, this is certainly the definitive study of the subject.” — GEORGE K. SMART, University of Miami reviewing”Purity in Print: The Vice Society Movement and Book Censorship in America” in”American Quarterly,”
  • “It is less this solid but conventional framework which insures Boyer’s study its excellence than the fairmindedness that allows Boyer on every page to rectify old errors, add new insights, and back or qualify recent scholarly conclusions. He makes his reader look in unexpected places for causes and effects, and always to good purpose Deftly disposing of the tired cliches about devious clerical power-plays masked as evangelical reform, he sympathetically charts the demise of active religious and ecclesiastical influence in the city, he shows, nonetheless, its legacy of moral enthusiasm to be the central one in urban reform until the 1920s…. While discovering and sorting the facts of the urban reform movement, Boyer is alert to the language and psychology of the reformers. Again and again, he documents what he perceptively calls”the familiar urban moralcontrol cycle, from initial enthusiasm to baffled discouragement” This is a book which all serious students of the American city and of the nineteenth century will want to read and keep for perusal and reference. — Ann Douglas, Columbia University in”The Journal of American History” reviewing”Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920″

Basic Facts

Teaching Positions:

University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Asst. Prof. to Professor of History, 1967-1980; department chair, 1978-80
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Professor of History, 1980-85; Merle Curti Professor of History, 1985-2002; Emeritus, 2002 -
Paul S Boyer JPGConcurrent Position at the University of Wisconsin: Senior Member, Institute for Research in the Humanities, 1989-2002; Director, 1993-2001.

Visiting Appointments:
University of California-Los Angeles, Visiting Professor of History, 1987-1988;
Northwestern University, Henry Luce Visiting Professor of American Culture, 1988-1989;
State University of New York-Plattsburgh, September 1992, Distinguished Visiting Professor Northwestern University, Visiting Professor, Fall 1995;
College of William and Mary, James Pinckney Harrison Professor of History, 2002-03;

Other positions included Coordination Committee for International Voluntary Work Camps, UNESCO, Paris. Staff member, 1955-1957;
Notable American Women, Harvard University, Assistant Editor, 1964-1967;

Area of Research:

American cultural and intellectual history; American religious history; Prophetic and apocalyptic belief in America; Censorship and First Amendment Issues; nuclear weapons in American culture, Salem witchcraft.

Education:

Harvard University, A.B. (magna cum laude), 1960, M.A., 1961, Ph.D., 1966.

Major Publications:

  • Purity in Print: The Vice-Society Movement and Book Censorship in America, Scribner (New York City), 1968.
  • (With Stephen Nissenbaum) Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1974, Italian edition includes introduction by Carlo Ginzburg, published as La Citta Indemoniate, Einaudi (Turino), 1986, published as Salem Possessed, MJF (New York City), 1997.
  • Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920, Harvard University Press, 1978, reprinted, 1992.
  • (With others) Women in American Religion, edited by Janet Wilson, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia), 1978.
  • By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age, Pantheon (New York City), 1985, second edition, contains a new preface by Boyer, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill), 1994.
  • Mission on Taylor Street: The Founding and Early Years of the Dayton Brethren in Christ Mission, Brethren in Christ Historical Society (Grantham, PA), 1987.
  • (Coauthor) The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, Volume 1: To 1877, Volume 2: From 1865, Heath (Lexington), 1989, second edition, 1993, interactive CD-ROM editions, developed by Bryten, 1993 and 1996, third edition, 1996, essentials edition, includes text and CD-ROM, Houghton Mifflin (Boston), 1999, fourth edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1999, chapters 22-33 of third edition also published separately as The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, 1890s to the Present, Heath, 1996.
  • When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, Harvard University Press, 1992.
  • Promises to Keep: The United States since 1945 (textbook), Heath, 1994, second edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
  • Todd and Curti’s American Nation (textbook), Holt (Austin), 1994, annotated teacher’s edition published as Boyer’s American Nation, 1998.
  • (With Sterling Stuckey) The American Nation in the Twentieth Century (textbook), Holt, 1995, annotated teacher’s edition, 1996.
  • Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons (collection of previously published writings), Ohio State University Press (Columbus), 1998.

Byer’s upcoming projects include an article on nuclear themes in the work of the poets and writers of the Beat Movement, with Professor William Lawlor, and revisions of college and high-school American history textbooks (ongoing).

Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Assistant editor, with Edward T. James and Janet W. James) Notable American Women: 1607-1950, three volumes, Harvard University Press, 1971.
  • (With Nissenbaum; and author of introduction and index, with Nissenbaum) The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692, compiled and transcribed in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration, under the supervision of Archie N. Frost, Da Capo (New York City), 1977.
  • (With Nissenbaum; and author of introduction, with Nissenbaum) Salem Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 1972, reprinted with new preface by Boyer and Nissenbaum, Northeastern University Press (Boston), 1993.
  • (Editor and author of commentary) Reagan as President: Contemporary Views of the Man, His Politics, and His Policies, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago), 1990.
  • (Editor-in-chief) Oxford Companion to United States History, Oxford University Press, 2001.

Also, general editor of the”History of American Thought and Culture” series, University of Wisconsin Press, 1984-94.

Contributor to reference works and collaborative projects, among them Encyclopedia of American History, essay on Bernard Baruch, Frank Kellogg, and Henry Stimpson, Dushkin, 1974; Notable American Women,Supplement 1: The Modern Era, essay on Dorothy Thompson and Blanche Knopf, Harvard University Press, 1980; Encyclopedia Americana, essays on Carrie Chapman Catt, Henry Blackwell, and Antoinette Blackwell; Dictionary of American Biography, Scribner’s, Supplement III, essays on John Macrae and John Woolsey, 1973, Supplement IV, essays on Frank Buck, Frank Crowninshield, Paul Harris, James McGraw, Barney Oldfield, Charles M. Sheldon, Harry Thaw, and Charles Towne, 1974, Supplement IV, essay on Franklin D’Olier, 1977, and Supplement VI, essay on Duncan Hines, 1980; Dictionary of American History, Scribner’s, 1976; Encyclopedia of American Political History, Volume 1, edited by Jack P. Greene, Scribner’s, 1984; Encyclopedia of American Social History, Volume 1, edited by Mary R. Cayton, Elliott J. Gorn, and Peter W. Williams, Scribner’s, 1993; A Companion to American Thought, edited by Richard W. Fox and James T. Kloppenberg, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1995; History of the United States, Volume 5, edited by Donald T. Critchlow and Andrzej Bartnicki, Polish Academic Press (Warsaw), 1996; Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, Volume 3, edited by Stephen J. Stein, Continuum (New York City), 1997; A History of the Book in America, Volume 4, edited by Carl Kaestle and Janice Radway, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming; as well as World Book Encyclopedia,American National Biography, and Oxford Companion to American Military History.

Contributor of numerous chapters in coauthored works, scholarly articles, book reviews, and review essays to periodicals, among them American Historical Review, American Quarterly, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Diplomatic History, Historian, History Teacher, Houston Review, Journal of American History, Journal of the American Medical Association, New Republic, Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research in History, Reviews in American History, Virginia Quarterly Review, and William and Mary Quarterly. Also contributor of essays and commentary to periodicals, including Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Chronicle of Higher Education, Cleveland Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine, Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, Messenger Magazine, Nation, New Republic, New York Times Newsday Books, Policy Review, Tikkun, Washington Post Magazine, and Wisconsin Academy Review.

Awards:

National Book Award nomination in History, 1975 (for Salem Possessed);
John Dunning Prize, American Historical Association, 1974 (for Salem Possessed);
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 1973-74;
Distinguished Alumnus Award, Messiah College, 1979;
Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship, 1982-83;
American Antiquarian Society, Elected to membership, 1984;
Society of American Historians, Elected to membership, 1990;
Wisconsin Institute for Study of War, Peace and Global Cooperation, Faculty Award, 1992;
Banta Award for literary achievement by a Wisconsin author, Wisconsin Library Assn., 1993 (for When Time Shall Be No More);
“Notable Wisconsin Author” Award, Wisconsin Library Association, 1999;
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Elected to membership, 1997;
Massachusetts Historical Society, Elected to membership, 1997;
Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Humanities Scholarship, Wisconsin, 2003;
Listed in Contemporary Authors, Who’s Who in American Education.

Additional Info:

Boyer has made numerous television appearances on nationally broadcast programs including:”The Menace of Nuclear Weapons,” History Channel”20th Century with Mike Wallace”
“Apocalypse,” PBS”Frontline” program, Nov. 22, 1999;
“Monkey Trial” [The 1925 Scopes Trial], PBS,”The American Experience” series, February 2002;
“Revelation,” Discovery Channel, Jan. 7, 2004; BBC-TV, Apr. 25, 2004;
“Witch Hunt” [Salem witchcraft], History Channel, September 31, 2004;
“Countdown to Armageddon,” History Channel, December 26, 2004;
“Antichrist,” History Channel, Dec. 26, 2005;
“The Rapture,” Discovery Times Channel, Jan. 31, 2006 and rebroadcasts;
“Secrets of Revelation: National Geographic Channel, July 16, 2006 and rebroadcasts;
“The Doomsday Code,” Channel 4 (Great Britain). Sept. 16, 2006;
“U.S. Strategic Nuclear Policy: An Oral History” (4 DVD set, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, 2005). He has also had national radio interviews on : PBS, CBC, BBC, etc.; and numerous interviews on various topics on local radio stations and TV channels; Wisconsin Public Radio; Wisconsin Public Television.

History Buzz February 18, 2012: Robert K. Webb, historian and University of Maryland Baltimore County professor, dies at 89

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Robert K. Webb, historian and UMBC professor, dies at 89

Source: WaPo, 2-18-12

Robert K. Webb, 89, a longtime history professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County who was one of the country’s foremost scholars of British history, died Feb. 15 at his home in Washington. He had lymphoma, his daughter Margaret Webb Pressler said.

Dr. Webb, who usually published under the name R.K. Webb, was perhaps best known as the author of “Modern England: From the 18th Century to the

Present,” which was first published in 1968 and remained a standard college textbook for more than 30 years. He wrote several other books and was also the

co-author, with Yale historian Peter Gay, of another college textbook, “Modern Europe,” first published in 1973.

(Family photo) – Robert K. Webb was perhaps best known as the author of “Modern England: From the 18th Century to the Present.”

“He was, for a long time, the pre-eminent scholar of British history in America,” John W. Jeffries, a professor of history and dean of UMBC’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, said Saturday….READ MORE

History Buzz February 2, 2012: Maurice Meisner: Historian of modern China, dies at 80

Maurice Meisner, historian of modern China, dies at 80

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HISTORY PASSINGS

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison News, 2-2-12

Maurice Meisner, Harvey Goldberg Professor Emeritus of History, passed away at home in Madison on Monday, Jan. 23. He was 80.

“Mauri was, for many years, an important cornerstone of our Chinese history program,” says Florencia Mallon, Julieta Kirkwood Professor and chair of the history department. “He will be missed by many colleagues and former students.”

During more than half a century of research, Meisner watched events unfold as he filed them away for future study. An idealist, his central concerns included the “path to utopia”: the tensions between an urge for transformative action and the restraints of history.

His teaching reflected these changing times, covering the reign of Mao Zedong, China’s admission to the United Nations, “ping-pong diplomacy,” the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and China’s rise to industrial might. The field experienced a surge of interest after President Nixon’s visit to China in 1971. Meisner responded by building a major graduate program in Chinese history, emphasizing training in intellectual history….READ MORE

History Buzz February 2, 2012: Wesley P. Newton: Noted Montgomery author, historian, WWII vet Newton dies

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HISTORIANS PASSINGS

Noted Montgomery author, historian, WWII vet Newton dies

World War II veteran and local historian Wesley P. Newton displays his Purple Heart in Montgomery on May 6, 2005. Newton was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1945. A noted historian, Newton passed away Monday at the age of 86. / MICKEY WELSH/ADVERTISER FILE

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Montgomery author and historian Wesley Newton stands next to a historic marker outside the house once occupied by the family of Tuskegee Airman Sherman White, who was killed during World War II, in this 2008 photo. / ALVIN BENN/ADVERTISER FILE

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Montgomery has lost one of its most noted historians.

Wesley P. Newton, who died Monday at the age of 86, wrote several acclaimed books about the area, but he was perhaps as well-known for leading a successful decadelong campaign to clear the names of the first two Tuskegee Airmen who died in combat during World War II.

Newton was a history professor for more than three decades, including more than two decades at Auburn University.

“He was proud of his scholarship. I think he published seven books, including two or three that were nationally recognized,” said his son, Brent Newton.

He said although the article his father co-wrote on the Tuskegee Airmen might not have ranked among his best works scholastically, it may have been the one in which he took the most pride….READ MORE

History Buzz Historian Passings October 19, 2011: John Morton Blum Iconic Historian Passes Away

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HISTORIAN PASSINGS: REMEMBERING JOHN MORTON BLUM

Source: Yale Daily News, 10-19-11

John Morton Blum, a legendary American history professor who inspired thousands of students during his 34-year career at Yale, died Monday morning of complications with pneumonia in North Branford, Conn. He was 90.

Widely regarded as one of the most influential historians of the late 20th century, Blum helped to forge the modern field of American history through his prolific scholarship and writing. In his long tenure at the University, Blum drew hundreds of students to his lectures each year and taught some of Yale’s most famous political alumni. His passion for academics and his dedicated mentorship of students motivated many who passed through his graduate classes to become professors at universities across the country.

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YDN archives

“He of course has a great reputation as a pre-eminent American history scholar,” former Vermont Governor Howard Dean ’71, who took an undergraduate history course with Blum, said in an email Tuesday. “But he could also make history come alive to undergraduate students and he did that for many years. We were incredibly lucky to have him as a teacher.”

Blum came to Yale with a lifelong interest in history and firsthand experience in some of its defining moments.

Born in 1921, Blum grew up in Manhattan and Long Island before attending first Phillips Academy Andover and then Harvard University on scholarship. A year after graduating college in 1943, he travelled to the South Pacific as a member of the United States Navy in World War II. Blum wed his college sweetheart, Pamela Zink Blum, immediately before his deployment, and the marriage lasted for the remainder of his life.

When he returned from the war, Blum continued his history studies and eventually became a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1948. But just nine years later, Blum arrived at Yale as a full professor — joining the ranks of fellow faculty members C. Vann Woodward and Edmund S. Morgan, who were influential historians of the time, and entering campus at a time when the University was experiencing great changes.

As Yale dealt with a tenure crisis in the mid-1960s, struggled to keep the school open during the Vietnam War and worked to incorporate women into the faculty and student body, Blum helped to ease the tensions these issues raised among the faculty, Yale historian Gaddis Smith ’54 GRD ’61 said.

“He was dedicated to the history and to the management of things,” Smith said. “He had a real knowledge of how higher education worked.”

During that time, Blum became the chairman of the History Department and was known among the department’s faculty for his peacemaking abilities, said Morgan, a professor emeritus of history and one of Blum’s closest friends. Morgan added that Blum’s dislike for conflict and his administrative talents led many to believe he would ascend to a deanship or presidency at Yale.

Despite those expectations, Blum remained a professor throughout his time at the University, teaching a number of history courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. Blum’s most famous course ­— History 35 — focused on the populist era, Wilsonian progressivism and New Deal liberalism, and consistently filled all 667 seats in the Law School Auditorium, Blum’s former student William Lilley III GRD ’65 said. The class drew students from every major, Lilley said, adding that Blum was considered an unparalleled lecturer at the University.

“He was the best lecturer I ever heard,” said Laura Kalman GRD ’82, a history professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara who worked with Blum on her dissertation. “He was not a showman, though he could have been. He knew so much and conveyed it so beautifully and with wit when it was appropriate, and students just loved him.”

Sitting among the large crowds that Blum drew were some of Yale’s most distinguished graduates in the 20th century: former President George W. Bush ’68, Senator John Kerry ’66 and Senator Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, in addition to Dean.

Kerry, who took History 35 during his time at Yale, said Blum had a significant impact on his students, reminding them of the real connections between people’s lives and political actions.

“Even decades after I sat in his class, I find myself coming back to one lesson in particular that he shared with us,” Kerry said in a Tuesday email. “It’s something I often bring up with my staff and colleagues: that real change only happens in a democracy when people and voters are responding to their ‘felt needs,’ to use the term he taught us.”

In addition to earning recognition as Yale’s pre-eminent lecturer of the time, Blum was also known for his commitment to mentoring students, both academically and personally. Several of Blum’s former students said he helped them develop their writing abilities, and Kalman said he was a “model on how to live.”

Steve Gillon, a former colleague of Blum’s and now resident historian of the History Channel, said Blum taught him at age 27 that “life begins at 30” — encouraging Gillion to find a passion early and spend his life pursuing it.

Despite his well-known academic career, Blum was a private man, who “was intensely fond of his family, friends, and colleagues,” said Pamela Zink Blum, his wife of 65 years.

Blum’s son, Thomas, said his father’s passion and high expectations for society were also evident in his personal life.

“He set a high standard for his children, though tolerant of our faults, and he set a high standard for himself,” Thomas said.

Blum is survived by his wife, three children and three grandchildren. A memorial service will be held in his honor on Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. in Battell Chapel.

Storied professor dies

John Morton Blum, an eminent Yale historian who taught the likes of former President George W. Bush ’68, U.S. Sen. John Kerry ‘66 and former Yale professor Henry Louis Gates ’73, has passed away in North Branford, CT. He was 90.

Blum, a Harvard man, joined Yale’s History Department in 1957. A former chair of the department, Blum was regarded by many as one of the most distinguished and esteemed historians and craftsman in political history.

“John was a great citizen of Yale, a pioneer in helping us understand the meaning of equality in America, and he embodied what it means to be a historian engaged in the public world,” professor David Blight wrote in an email Monday.

Blum, who published numerous books in the past four decades that covered a wide variety of topics, including the Wilson Era, Progressive Presidents, discord in American politics and society, retired in 1991. Despite his retirement, Blum continued to publish, give interviews and appear in historical documentaries well into his 80s. His teaching left an impression on Bush, as the former president mentioned Blum in a 2001 Class Day speech:

As a student, I tried to keep a low profile. It worked. Last year the New York Times interviewed John Morton Blum because the record showed I had taken one of his courses. Casting his mind’s eye over the parade of young faces down through the years, Professor Blum said, and I quote, “I don’t have the foggiest recollection of him.” [Laughter]

But I remember Professor Blum. And I still recall his dedication and high standards of learning. In my time there were many great professors at Yale, and there still are

Blum is survived by his wife of 65 years, Pamela, and their three children. A memorial service will be held in November, Blight wrote.

Oscar Handlin: Historian was considered the father of immigration study

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Source: WaPo, 9-23-11

Oscar Handlin, a Harvard professor whose classic writings on American immigration made him a leading intellectual force behind legislation that eliminated the immigration quota system in the United States, died Sept. 20 at his home in Cambridge, Mass., after a heart attack. He was 95.

His death was confirmed by his son, David Handlin.

The son of Jewish immigrants, Dr. Handlin was considered the father of modern immigration studies. In his panoramic books, he chronicled the stories of Europeans, Jews, Puerto Ricans and African Americans and other populations that shaped the United States. His sweeping work “The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People” won the 1952 Pulitzer Prize in history.

“Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America,” he wrote in perhaps the most noted passage of that book. “Then, I discovered that the immigrants were American history.”

Dr. Handlin’s credentials as a historian, the Harvard imprimatur and his frequent writings — in publications including the Atlantic Monthly and Commentary — made him an influential public intellectual in his time. Historians cite him as a crucial behind-the-scenes player in the landmark 1965 legislation that abolished the country-based quota systems that had regulated immigration since the 1920s.

He was “absolutely central to it,” said Hasia Diner, a professor of immigration history at New York University.

Dr. Handlin found the quota systems, which favored Northern and Western European immigrants, racially discriminatory.

He considered it “something that not only discriminated against prospective immigrants,” said Columbia University professor Mae Ngai, but also “a kind of stigma against those ethnic groups in the United States.”

In his writings, Dr. Handlin never treated American immigration in dry, statistical terms. Critics described “The Uprooted,” his most noted work, as a riveting and moving account of the entire immigration experience.

“The Uprooted concerns the personal human side of the flood of immigration,” wrote a New York Herald Tribune reviewer. “Mr. Handlin wrote of the European settlements from which the immigrants came, then followed through the hardships of their crossing, in steerage, and life that followed in the United States.”

Oscar Handlin was born Sept. 29, 1915, in Brooklyn in a household where education was highly valued. When Dr. Handlin’s son was born, his father, a Russian immigrant, suggested the name “Plato.” Dr. Handlin and his wife decided against it.

Dr. Handlin grew up working as a delivery boy in his family’s grocery store and often rested a book on top of his pushcart, reading as his made his way through the streets of Brooklyn.

He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1934 and then studied at Harvard, where he earned a master’s degree in 1935 and a doctorate in history in 1940.

Among his mentors was Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., who suggested the topic of his dissertation: 18th- and early 19th-century immigrants to Boston. The work was subsequently published under the title “Boston’s Immigrants.”

Dr. Handlin was himself the target of discrimination while at Harvard. His classmate John Hope Franklin, who became a revered scholar of African American history, wrote in a memoir that Dr. Handlin was turned away as an officer in the Henry Adams Club because he was Jewish.

Dr. Handlin began teaching at Harvard while pursuing his graduate degrees and would remain with the university for more than four decades.

His first wife, Mary Flug Handlin, with whom he often collaborated, died in 1976.

Survivors include his second wife, of 34 years, Lilian Bombach Handlin of Cambridge, also a co-author; three children from his first marriage, David Handlin of Lexington, Mass., Joanna Handlin Smith of Cambridge and Ruth Manley of Guilford, Conn.; one brother; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

 

Mike Flavin: Former professor at Midwestern State University, dies

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Former Midwestern State University professsor Michael Flavin, 69, died Thursday morning after a years-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Services are pending.

Flavin began his career at MSU in 1969 and prided himself on a balanced approach in the classroom; students could freely express their political views but, as he told a colleague, “they better be ready to back it up with facts.”

An acknowledged expert on the history of local, state and national politics and election lore, Flavin was often called on by the Times Record News and local television stations for political analysis; he never hesitated to predict the outcome of elections and referendums….READ MORE

Allen William Trelease: Former UNCG professor, historian dies at 83

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Source: News Record, 7-18-11

A former UNCG professor who wrote the history of the university’s first century died Friday at the age of 83, Chancellor Linda Brady announced today.

Allen William Trelease, UNCG professor emeritus of history and former department head, died at Friends Homes in Greensboro.

“Dr. Trelease will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues, and his death will be felt across the campus,” Brady said. “Our sympathy and prayers go out to his family.”

He was a well-known historian who specialized in and wrote several books about Southern history, especially of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

He came to UNCG in 1967 from Wells College and served for 27 years until his retirement in 1994. He was head of the Department of History from 1986 to 1994 and president of the North Carolina Historical Society. He also created the Allen W. Trelease Graduate Fellowship in the Department of History.

He researched the beginnings of UNCG for nearly a decade and wrote “Making North Carolina Literate: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro from Normal School to Metropolitan University,” which was published in 2004.

Arrangements are being handled by Forbis & Dick Funeral Service and a memorial service is being planned for a later date.

Robert Sklar: Dies at 74; Historian Broke New Ground in Study of American Film

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At NYU, Robert Sklar examined and wrote about the relationship between American cinema and the forces of social change. He was also one of the first fantasy baseball Rotisserie League participants. He died in Spain after a bicycling accident.

Source: LAT, 7-9-11

Robert Sklar, a film scholar known for bringing the insights of the social historian to understanding the history of American film, has died. He was 74.

Sklar, who also was one of the original Rotisserie League fantasy baseball “owners” in the 1980s, died in Barcelona, Spain, July 2 after suffering head injuries in a bicycling accident, said Richard Allen, professor and chair of cinema studies at New York University….READ MORE

Professor Richard Holmes Passes

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…Richard was a pioneer of a type of television history that explored the experiences of the common soldier; what he really felt at Naseby, the Somme, at El Alamein or at Basra. His books – Firing Line, Redcoat, Sahib, Tommy, Dusty Warriors – are full of this. On television he was able to combine genuine scholarship with a genius for storytelling and an ability to communicate complex events in a supremely accessible way. He understood the military mind but was no apologist for generals or senior commanders. He understood weapons and how they worked or failed to work and what this meant to your average squaddie at the critical moment of combat. The several series of War Walks that he went on to make for the BBC capture this ability magnificently. He could draw out the significance of the tiniest detail, a slight advantage in terrain, the supremacy of one weapon over another, of literally how ‘the want of a nail’ could cost you the battle. And everything he said was delivered in his enthusiastic, passionate, unique style. He will be sadly missed and, as one of the great communicators, his death is a great loss to television….READ MORE