Bernard Bailyn, Gordon S. Wood, Jacques Barzun, and Stanley Katz: Obama awards 2010 National Humanities Medals to historians

Source: National Endowment for the Humanities Press Release, 3-1-11

President Barack Obama announced the ten winners of the 2010 National Humanities Medals, awarded for outstanding achievements in history, literature, education, and cultural policy. The medalists are: authors Wendell E. Berry, Joyce Carol Oates, and Philip Roth; historians Bernard Bailyn and Gordon S. Wood; literary scholars Daniel Aaron, Roberto González Echevarría, and Arnold Rampersad; cultural historian Jacques Barzun; and legal historian and higher education policy expert Stanley Nider Katz. The medals were presented at a White House ceremony on Wednesday, March 2, 2011.

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

The official citations honoring the medalists are:

  • Daniel Aaron for his contributions to American literature and culture. As the founding president of the Library of America, he helped preserve our nation’s heritage by publishing America’s most significant writing in authoritative editions. (Read profile.)
  • Bernard Bailyn for illuminating the nation’s early history and pioneering the field of Atlantic history. Bailyn, who spent his career at Harvard, has won two Pulitzer Prizes, the first for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution; and the second for Voyagers to the West. (Read profile.)
  • Jacques Barzun for his distinguished career as a scholar, educator, and public intellectual. One of the founders of the field of cultural history, Barzun taught at Columbia University for five decades and has written and edited more than thirty books. (Read profile.)
  • Wendell E. Berry for his achievements as a poet, novelist, farmer, and conservationist. The author of more than forty books, Berry has spent his career exploring our relationship with the land and the community. (Read profile.)
  • Roberto González Echevarría for his contributions to Spanish and Latin American literary criticism. His path-breaking Myth and Archive: A Theory of Latin American Narrative is the most cited scholarly work in Hispanic literature. González Echevarría teaches at Yale University. (Read profile.)
  • Stanley Nider Katz for a career devoted to fostering public support for the humanities. As director of the American Council of Learned Societies for more than a decade, he expanded the organization’s programs and helped forge ties between libraries, museums, and foundations.  (Read profile.)
  • Joyce Carol Oates for her contributions to American letters. The author of more than fifty novels, as well as short stories, poetry, and non-fiction, Oates has been honored with the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Short Story. (Read profile.)
  • Arnold Rampersad for his work as a biographer and literary critic. His award-winning books have profiled W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson, and Ralph Ellison. He has also edited critical editions of the works of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes. (Read profile.)
  • Philip Roth for his contributions to American letters. Roth is the author of twenty-four novels, including Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral, which won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize. His criticism has appeared in American Poetry Review and The New York Times Book Review. (Read profile.)
  • Gordon S. Wood for scholarship that provides insight into the founding of the nation and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. Wood is author and editor of eighteen books, including The Radicalism of the American Revolution, for which he earned a Pulitzer Prize. (Read profile.)

The medals, first awarded as the Charles Frankel Prize in 1989, will be presented during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. After the ceremony, the medalists and their families and friends will join the President and First Lady Michelle Obama for a reception in their honor.

Since 1996, when the first National Humanities Medal was given, 125 individuals have been honored, inclusive of this year’s awardees. Nine organizations also received medals. Previous medalists include Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, novelist John Updike, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, sociologist Robert Coles, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

History Buzz March 15, 2010: Reagan Fever & Revisiting Richard Hofstader

Reagan Fever & Revisiting Richard Hofstader





  • Conservatives on Texas school board revising curriculum, change history: Dr. McLeroy, addressing the Texas school board (Washington Monthly) The Texas Board of Education has approved a new school curriculum that will put a stamp on history and economics textbooks that will horrify some and be questioned by others…. – Examiner, 3-14-10
  • Larry Schweikart: University of Dayton historian criticizes textbooks for minimizing Reagan: …As for controversy, Professor Larry Schweikart of the University of Dayton, sees plenty in the textbooks he reviews. When vetting a history book, Schweikart first turns to any section discussing President Ronald Reagan. He says what you find there will tell you everything you need to know about whether or not a book is slanted. Schweikart believes that’s how many errors wind up in school textbooks: bias…. – FOX News (3-11-10)
  • Centuries-Old Shipwrecks Found in Baltic Sea: A gas company building an underwater pipeline stumbled upon several wrecks, some dating back 800 years…. A dozen centuries-old shipwrecks dating from medieval times to the world wars have been found. The ships were very well preserved because ship worms that eat wooden wrecks don’t live in the Baltic Sea. Thousands of similar wrecks have previously been found in the Baltic Sea…. –, 3-9-10
  • Jonathan D. Spense: Eminent China Scholar Will Deliver 2010 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities: Jonathan D. Spence, an expert on Chinese history and culture and a professor emeritus at Yale University, will deliver the 2010 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced on Monday…. – Chronicle of Higher Education (3-8-10)
  • 45 years after Selma civil rights march, some see ways to go: Robert Powell and Maria Gitin had not seen each other in 45 years until Sunday, more than four decades after they rode a donkey together through rural Wilcox County to register voters. Gitin answered the Rev. Martin Luther King’s call for civil rights workers to come to Alabama after state and local law enforcement officers beat marchers trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965…. – USA Today, 3-7-10
  • Reagan Fever: Ronald Reagan fever has not subsided in the GOP. The most recent flare-up came with the proposal of Congressman Patrick McHenry to replace Ulysses S. Grant with Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill. “President Reagan is indisputably one of the most transformative presidents of the 20th century,” McHenry wrote to his fellow members of Congress. “Like President Roosevelt on the dime and President Kennedy on the half-dollar, President Reagan deserves a place of honor on our nation’s currency.”
    Not exactly. It’s true that Reagan fans have been agitating for some time to memorialize the Gipper in a variety of ways, and, as the renaming of National Airport a few years ago indicates, they’ve been pretty successful. But putting him on the $50 bill doesn’t make much sense. For one thing, it’s unfair to Grant. As UCLA historian Joan Waugh, who has written a history of Grant, observed in the Los Angeles Times, he has gotten a bum historical rap….- National Interest, 3-12-10


  • Tevi Troy: Nerd is another word for smart Republicans have long been viewed as those who get gentleman’s “C” in the national classroom. In fact, it is almost a liberal trope to call Republican presidents “dumb.”
    Democrats, in contrast, are usually cited as the smart ones in American politics….
    But this simplistic analysis of smart Democrats contrasted with dumb Republicans does not fit reality. – Politico, 3-12-10


  • Ellen Fitzpatrick: Dear Mrs. Kennedy Book recalls grief of a nation, one condolence letter at a time: …But at least one of Jane’s notes ended up among the 200,000 pages that were sent to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, where they sat largely ignored until historian Ellen Fitzpatrick decided to write “Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation.”
    The book, released last week by HarperCollins, includes more than 200 never-before published letters divided into three categories: vivid recollections of the day Kennedy was killed; letters that express views on society, politics and the presidency, and personal experiences of grief and loss…. – AP, 3-14-10
  • Professor’s book shows delicate relationship between love, honor, and politics: “The Tyranny of Opinion,” written by Pablo Piccato, associate professor of history at Columbia, recounts an 1894 dispute between two politicians over a woman’s love…. – Columbia Spectator, 3-9-10
  • Ken Gormley: Southern Bound: ‘Death of American Virtue’ brings clarity: Good lord, how time marches on. It’s already been over a decade since the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and the ensuing struggle to impeach President Bill Clinton riveted the nation. And now, in a project begun before the smoke had even cleared, we have a massive (800 pages, counting notes, bibliography and index) new book about the whole mess. Not interested? Think again, for if you have any curiosity about politics and power, “The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr” (Crown, $35) by Ken Gormley provides some much-needed balance and perspective on one of the most distasteful and divisive episodes in modern American history…. – Mobile Press-Register, 3-14-10
  • Anthony Brandt: The Frozen Unknown: THE MAN WHO ATE HIS BOOTS The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage But the fabled Northwest Passage has returned to the news pages as a warming climate unlocks its deep channels, allowing access to hydrocarbons below the seabed. Anthony Brandt anchors his robust new history, “The Man Who Ate His Boots,” in that modern context…. – NYT, 3-11-10 Excerpt
  • Jonathan Phillips: Butchers and Saints: HOLY WARRIORS A Modern History of the Crusades It’s tempting to dismiss the crusaders’ piety as sheer hypocrisy. In fact, their faith was as pure as their savagery. As Jonathan Phillips observes in his excellent new history — in case we needed reminding at this late date — “faith lies at the heart of holy war.”…. – NYT, 3-11-10 Excerpt


  • Letter from America An Old Essay Used to Explain a New Movement: The name Richard Hofstadter has been summoned up a lot lately in liberal opinion columns and the blogosphere as an eloquent and intellectually impeccable explanation for political developments like the Tea Party movement, the stardom of Sarah Palin, and the claim on right-wing talk radio that Barack Obama is a “socialist,” maybe even a “bolshevik” leading America to ruin. Mr. Hofstadter was the highly respected, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian at Columbia University among whose most famous essays was one called “The Paranoid Style of American Politics,” published in Harper’s Magazine in 1964, which is the piece of writing being cited most often these days…. – NYT, 3-11-10


  • Amy Strebe: US honors pioneering women military pilots: Amy Strebe, a historian and author of “Flying for her Country,” said the tribute came not a moment too soon. “This is the time to do it. In a couple of years they are not going to be with us anymore,” she said. – AFP, 3-10-10


  • Q+A: Interview with historian Simon Schama Dr Simon Schama interviewed by PAUL HOLMES: PAUL So you are anti federation. Obama – let’s talk about Barack Obama, of whom you are a keen student, he’s been President for what nearly a year, just over a year, and on the matter of Obama he’s called off his trip of Asia and I think Melbourne for I think three days, this is because the White House seems to think Simon that he can possibly get his health reform through very shortly. Is he going to be able to do that do you think, realistically.
    SIMON I think he is actually, we’re in act three of Obama actually Paul, I think act one was the extraordinary campaign he ran, the unrealistic expectations that him as some sort of American messiah, someone who’d bring Americans together at a moment of multiple crises. Act two was Obama being so convinced that he could bring Americans into that great national cuddle and getting on as a policy wonk person with the day to day business of governing that he forgot about politics. Act two between Spring and Christmas last year he absolutely lost the political plot, he lost all the toughness which is there underneath the rather philosophical lofty nice guy. Act three he’s decided to be much more of a fighter, and the business of health care reform is he’s using a process called reconciliation, which is sort of the opposite of what it sounds. It is a way to use the budgetary process to get through pieces of legislation that don’t require a super majority of filibuster proof majority, just a simple majority. It was thought to be so-called nuclear option, something that could blow back in political disadvantage, but George Bush used it to enact taxcuts and that takes away an issue from the Republicans, he’s gonna use that for health care reform, and he’s gonna use it for financial regulation reform, and my bet is even though Republicans think it will polarise the country more, the country will actually be grateful for seeing a tougher more decisive President…. – TV New Zealand, 3-14-10


  • Janet Gezari: Professor´s fellowship fosters Euro-American relations at the American Academy in Berlin: There is no typical day for Professor Janet Gezari at the American Academy in Berlin, where she is spending the semester as the Siemens Fellow. One minute she’ll be dining with a famous opera director or visiting the Federal President’s office, and deeply engaged in her research or exploring the sites of Berlin in the next. “This is a remarkable opportunity for me,” Gezari, the Lucy Marsh Haskell ’19 Professor of English, said. “In addition to ideal conditions for working, I have the opportunity to get to know Berlin and Berliners.”…. – Connecticut College, 3-12-10
  • Joseph Bergin: Manchester historian honoured A University of Manchester historian has received one of the Europe’s oldest and most important history prizes: Professor Joseph Bergin was given the prize this month from the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres for his book Church, society and religious change in France 1580-1730. It recognizes the most important works published on the history of France, and is rarely given to non-French language publications. “It is a great honour to receive this award, and recognition that this book is now regarded as most comprehensive account written in any language – French included – of the subject and period,” said Professor Bergin… – Manchester News, 3-11-10


  • Bernard Bailyn: Pulitzer Prize-Winner Offers Lesson in History: Bernard Bailyn, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian,and professor of early American history at Harvard University, treated an intimate audience gathered in Fulton Hall Tuesday evening to an unconventional lecture on the context and piecemeal construction of the American Constitution. “I am very much interested in the contingencies, accidents, personalities, and timing that play into the outcome of historical events,” Bailyn said in his introduction. Bailyn said that the writing and interpretation of the American Constitution was the “perfect example” of the outcome of such a strange mixture of factors, pointing out what he described as the numerous Constitutional accidents, compromises, and contingencies that undermine the modern-day sense of the document’s inevitability…. – BC’s The Heights, 3-11-10


  • Donald L. Miller: HBO sought Easton professor’s expertise for ‘The Pacific’ war series HBO’s ‘THE PACIFIC’: A simple question from his 6-year-old granddaughter inspired Easton historian Donald L. Miller to start writing about World War II. Miller, a Lafayette College history professor, has since written three books on the history of World War II. That led him to his latest project, as historical consultant and a writer for HBO’s ”The Pacific.” The 10-part miniseries on the U.S. Marine Corps’ World War II campaign in the Pacific begins airing at 9 tonight. Its producers include Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg…. – Morning Call, 3-14-10
  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS American Experience: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule



  • Nicholas Schou: Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
  • Timothy M. Gay: Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
  • Miranda Carter: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, (Hardcover) March 23, 2010
  • John W. Steinberg: All the Tsar’s Men: Russia’s General Staff and the Fate of the Empire, 1898-1914, (Hardcover) April 1, 2010
  • Simon Dixon: Catherine the Great, (Paperback) April 6, 2010
  • J. Todd Moye: Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, (Hardcover) April 12, 2010
  • Seth G. Jones: In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan (Paperback) April 12, 2010
  • Nick Bunker: Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, (Hardcover) April 13, 2010
  • Dominic Lieven: Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, (Hardcover), April 15, 2010
  • Timothy J. Henderson: The Mexican Wars for Independence, (Paperback) April 13, 2010
  • Hampton Sides: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Max Hastings: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Bradley Gottfried: The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – July 13, 1863, (Hardcover) April 19, 2010
  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010


  • Professor Jack Pole’s reassessment of American ‘exceptionalism’: Professor Jack Pole, the historian who died on January 30 aged 87, was a pioneering figure in the study of American political culture whose challenge to the notion of American “exceptionalism” ignited a debate that has yet to burn out…. – Telegraph (UK), 3-13-10
  • Richard Stites, Historian of Russian Culture, Dies at 78: Richard Stites, who opened up new territory for historians with a landmark work on the Russian women’s movement and in numerous articles and books on Russian and Soviet mass culture, died on Sunday in Helsinki, where he was doing research. He was 78 and lived in Washington. The cause was complications from cancer, his son Andrei said…. – NYT (3-13-10)
  • Thomas Garden Barnes, Berkeley professor and advocate of Canadian history, dies at 80: UC Berkeley history and law professor emeritus Thomas Garden Barnes, who was known as an erudite academe of English, French, American and Canadian law and history, died Tuesday. He was 80…. – The Daily Californian (3-11-10)

History Doyens: Bernard Bailyn


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

Bernard Bailyn, 3-6-06

What They’re Famous For

Bernard Bailyn is the Adams University Professor and James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History Emeritus at Harvard, where he has taught since 1949. He is the author of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967), for which he received the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes in 1968; The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (1974), winner of the National Book Award in History in 1975; Voyagers to the West (1986), which won the Pulitzer Prize in History. Bailyn has been described in the Washington Post Book World as “arguably the pre-eminent historian of the thirteen colonies’ break with Britain.” Bernard  Bailyn JPG Robert V. Remini has labeled Bailyn “the foremost historian of the American Revolution,” while Stephen Presser, of the Chicago Tribune Books, identified him as the “dean of American colonial historians.” Another Washington Post Book World critic remarked that “any book by Bailyn… is an event.”

Bailyn earned his A.B. from Williams College in 1945 and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1953. Bailyn is a member of numerous organizations in the United States and abroad including the American Historical Association (president, 1981) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the recipient of many awards, including more than 15 honorary degrees. In February 1998, Bailyn inaugurated the Millennium Evening Lecture Series at the White House, and in March of that year, he was awarded the Jefferson Medal of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He sees the influence of the American Revolution extending beyond the political realm of its time, into the present. “Whether we recognize it or not, the sense we make of the history of our national origins helps to define for us…the values, purposes,and acceptable characteristics of our public insititutions.”

Personal Anecdote

I was lucky, being at Harvard, to have some great historians as instructors, but when I think back to what direct guidance they gave me I don’t come up with much. Samuel Eliot Morison advised young historians to go sailing in the summers, which was advice wasted on me since the only vessel I had been on was a troop ship and I was seasick most of the time. Paul Buck, whose fine book The Road to Reunion impressed us all, advised us that when we come to lecture we should tell a joke at about 40 minutes into the hour. That didn’t help much, a) because I didn’t know that many jokes, and b) because his own jokes were so bad. And Oscar Handlin, when I came to him with a complex theoretical problem about Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch, and R.H.Tawney, when I was writing about Puritanism and economic growth, muttered something like “umm.”

But the truth is that I learned an enormous amount from all three of them – not from what they said but from what they did, as teachers and writers. From Morison, especially from his vast 15-volume history of the US Navy in WW II, and also from his multi-volume history of Harvard, I learned that it is possible to write a complex story crowded with detailed incidents and conflicting personalities in clear, simple narrative form. From Buck I learned that one can best motivate students by getting them to elicit what truly interested them, to get them to recognize what – for whatever reason – caught their imagination, and encourage them to work out from there. And from Handlin I learned the most important thing of all, that history is a form of intellection, a way of thinking and understanding, not a compilation of facts, no matter how cleverly you organize them.

So I was lucky, not in having wonderful advice given to me but in witnessing up close some master historians at work. It’s what they did that mattered, not what they said.


By Bernard Bailyn

  • Joann Conrad Beissel, an ignorant, mystical, tormented baker’s boy from the German Palatinate, after flirting with several radical sects that struggled for existence in the spiritually burnt-over districts of the Rhineland, had joined the exodus of Pennsylvania; concocted, in a hermit’s cabin near Germantown, his own brand of sabbatarian Dunkerism; gathered a band of followers at Conestoga; and founded the Ephrata Cloister, whose monks and nuns ruled despotically, neurotically, and cruelly. God-possessed, immersed in the writings of the mystics, entranced by the secret rites of the Rosicrucians, he was a cyclone of energy, and he pursued his dream of a pure religion, unimpeded by state, society, or church. He was bizarre but unconfined, The  Peopling of British North America JPGand the fame of his strange sect of emaciated celibates spread throughout the English as well as the German population of Pennsylvania and ultimately throughout the Rhineland and in France, through Voltaire, as well. Beissel preached with his eyes shut tight, passionately, ungrammatically, in incoherent torrents. If by chance his bowed congregation indicated understanding in quiet murmurs of assent, he reversed his chaotic argument to demonstrate the incomprehensibility of God’s truth. And he imposed on his half starved followers-clothed in rough, Capuchin-like habits designed to hide all signs of human shape-a rule of such severe self-motification that some went mad, while the elite enacted the secret rites of the Rosicrucians, to which neophytes sought admission by bodily ordeals that lasted forty days and forty nights. Yet and yet the art of book illumination was reinvented in Beissel’s Ephrata, and from some spark of hidden genius the Vorsteher himself devised a form of polyphonic choral music, complete with own system of notation, which, when sung in falsetto by his followers straining to reach ever higher, more “divine” notes, created an unearthly effect that enthralled everyone who ever heard it-and which caught the imagination, two centuries later, of another German immigrant in America, Thomas Mann, who, brooding on art and the German soul, immortalized Beissel in Doctor Faustus. — Bernard Bailyn in “The Peopling of British North America : An Introduction”
  • Failure to respond to the moral indignation and the meliorist aspirations that lay behind the protests of the Revolutionary leaders, Hutchinson could find only persistent irrationality in their arguments, and he wrote off their agitations as politically pathological. And in a limited, logical sense he was right. The Revolutionary leaders were not striving to act reasonably or logically. Demanding a responsiveness in government that exceeded the traditional expectations of the time, groping toward goals and impelled by aspirations that were no recognized part of the world as it was, they drew on convictions more powerful than logic and mobilized sources of political and social energy that burst the boundaries of received political wisdom. The Ordeal  of Thomas Hutchinson JPGHutchinson could not govern an aroused populace led by politicians manipulating deep-felt ideological symbols. He could not assimilate these new forces into the old world he knew so well, and, attempting uncomprehendingly to do so, lost the advantage of his greatest assets: a deserved reputation for candor, honesty, and a tireless and impartial devotion to the general good. Failing to carry the new politics with him by arguments that were accredited and tactics that were familiar he was obliged to become devious; inevitably he appeared hypocritical, ultimately conspiratorial, though in fact he was neither. As the pressure mounted, his responses narrowed, his ideas became progressively more rigid, his imagination more limited, until in the end he could only plead for civil order as an absolute end in itself, which not only ignored the explosive issues but appeared, unavoidably, to be self-serving. — Bernard Bailyn in “The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson”
  • When Jefferson and Adams died, both on the 4th of July fifty years after Independence, none of the goals of the American Enlightenment, of the Revolution’s transforming radicalism, had been reached. But a basic force had been created in American life: the propulsion within a pluralistic, tumultuous, abrasive, and ruthlessly ambitious society to approach the fulfillment of historic ideals.The gap between the real and the ideal remains, far narrower than in Adams’ and Jefferson’s time, but still achingly wide. We are still a multi-ethnic, materialistic, ambitious, impatient, and volatile people, but in our finest moments we are also, I believe, the most idealistic nation on earth. We are riven by differences, discrimination, and animosities, but, instinctively responding to ideals set out in our deeper past, we reach for reconciliation.A spark was struck two centuries ago which lights the way for us still. — Remarks by Dr. Bernard Bailyn, Millennium Evening Lecture, White House, 1998 About Bernard Bailyn
  • If the storms of fashion that have pounded the humanities during the last 30 years have spared the study of early American history, one of the scholars we have most to thank is Bernard Bailyn. Bailyn’s 1967 classic, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, kept the eyes of a generation of historians on the subjects that early Americans themselves eyed so obsessively: the ideas and the politics of a highly intellectual and political time. There were battles to be fought and money to be made during the American Revolution, and without victory in the first, or the lure of the second, the Revolution would never have been won. But the thoughts of even soldiers and speculators kept returning to politics, and to the ideals that they believed politicians lived to defend, or to threaten. Bailyn made the founders comprehensible, and lively — for their ideas still march through our minds. — Richard Brookhiser in the NYT on the impact of “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution”
  • “Mr. Bailyn brings a new vividness, authenticity and excitement to the story of the settlement of North America….He sees the past in a more lively and human fashion, and in sharper detail, than have most previous historians….This is a rich canvas of a great folk-wandering over two centuries …. If the Introduction is any guide to what is to follow, the volumes to come will be treasure houses indeed.” — Esmond Wright, The New York Times Book Review reviewing “The Peopling of British North America : An Introduction”
  • “With a spare and delicate genius, [Bailyn] sketch[es] out the fiendishly complex essentials of a world where ‘everything seems strange close up.’… Bernard Bailyn’s work has the grandeur of a Braudel and the humanity of a Michelet. And he’s got to the roots.” — Gwyn A. Williams, The Guardian reviewing “The Peopling of British North America : An Introduction”
  • “In the concluding pages of [the book] Bailyn points out that Hutchinson never understood the forces that destroyed him…. And in the opening pages he tells us that his own instinctive sympathies remain with the revolutionists, that he is simply showing us how it was possible for a good man to take the other side. But in between the opening and closing pages he succeeds so well that he leaves the American Revolution looking a pretty shabby affair.” — Edmund S. Morgan in the New York Review of Books reviewing “The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson”
  • “Rarely has a single book stimulated such a burst of productive scholarship, though the new works often presented alternative formulations of the argument. Mr. Bailyn has little patience with revisionist positions, and while in the present essays he corrects and enlarges his original thesis, he essentially adheres to it.” — Forrest McDonald in the New York Times Book Review reviewing “Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence”
  • I can’t think of a better way to inaugurate this series of lectures than with one on the founding of our republic, also the first White House cyberspace lecture. We are truly imagining — honoring the past, not by imagining the future, but through the prism of the future.
    I thank Bernard Bailyn for what he said and the way he said it and for a lifetime of work. We received the distilled wisdom tonight of more than four decades of hard thinking and work about what it means to be an American and what America means to Americans and to the rest of the world.
    I was rather amused, he said when we started that all these people who came from a lot of different places, they moved around a lot, they disagreed a lot, they were disdainful of government — I thought, what’s new? (Laughter.) But they were also, as Professor Bailyn said at the end of his remarks, at their best moments profoundly idealistic and always, always appropriately suspicious of untrammeled power in the hands of anyone in the government. — Remarks by President Bill Clinton at the Millenium Lecture in response to Bailyn’s Speech
  • When I entered graduate school in the history department at Harvard in 1969, I knew almost nothing about Bernard Bailyn, nor was I interested in the field of early American history that he taught. The fact that his study of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution had received the Pulitzer Prize in the spring of 1968 was lost on me, overshadowed by the tumultuous events that marked my final semester of college: the aftermath of the Tet offensive, Lyndon Johnson’s abdication and the Gene McCarthy boomlet, the assassination of Martin Luther King. The notion that someone immersed in the events of the 1960s would want to carry his interest in American politics back to its eighteenth-century origins would have struck me as quaint. For all I knew or cared, real American history began sometime around the New Deal — the rest was prologue, nothing more. Of course, one might be expected to know something about the colonial and Revolutionary eras — but who would want to make them the subject of his own work?A funny thing happened to me, though, on my way to becoming a historian of modern America. When I went to sign up for my first graduate seminar with the late Frank Freidel, a distinguished biographer of Franklin Roosevelt, he surprised me with his advice. “You’ll learn a lot more if you take Professor Bailyn’s seminar,” Frank said, smiling beneath the last flattop haircut sported by any member of the Harvard faculty. I dutifully wandered down the corridor of the top floor of Widener Library to Bailyn’s office and secured the necessary permission.For me, as for literally scores of his students, that seminar was a transforming intellectual experience… To an untutored naif like myself, Bailyn’s seminar was at once mystifying and elating. For the first half of the course, we were never quite sure what the subject was. Each week’s readings were so eclectic that we went to class wondering what we would possibly discuss…With that seminar, I was hooked — a common fate for many of his students. The next year I was a teaching assistant in two of Bailyn’s lecture courses. Here I saw a different facet of his approach to teaching. In his graduate courses, Bailyn mustered an admirable patience that most professors find hard to sustain, making us kick problems around, false leads and all, before nudging us (or sometimes commanding us, with an imperious “Look!”) to consider the points he wanted us to see. His undergraduate lectures took a different form. Bailyn was not a classroom lecturer in the grand style; he never gave the sort of polished performance that is full of bons mots and witticisms and manages to reach its scintillating conclusion seconds before the bell. For the first twenty minutes of class, one barely needed to take a note, because he usually spent the time restating the problem he had been discussing at the close of the previous class. But round about 25 minutes past the hour, it would be off to the races, as a whole new topic was introduced and brilliantly sketched, opening up interpretive vistas more rapidly than anyone could imagine….Teaching Voyagers to the West (as I regularly do) to our graduate students carries me back to the heady experience of Bailyn’s seminar. For the one lesson I learned best in 1969 was that I was preparing to write a book (on what subject I hardly knew), and that when I did, Bailyn’s extraordinary lessons and example would set the standard I would aspire to meet. That standard was never imposed, however; Bailyn left us to puzzle things out for ourselves, goaded only by his critical eye and his alarming propensity to call us Bernard Bailyn  JPGshort with the most famous of all his questions: “So what?”

    Bernard Bailyn has just turned seventy-five, and he remains as actively engaged in original research as he was when he was the young star of the Harvard history department in the 1950s. His studies of the peopling of British North America continue, and for the past few years, he has been conducting a highly energized series of seminars and workshops on the settlement and economic development of the early modern Atlantic world. He is, in fact, the youngest historian I know. — Jack Rakove “Bernard Bailyn: An Appreciation” (Humanities, March/April 1998)

    Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, joined faculty in 1949, instructor in education, 1953-54, assistant professor, 1954-58, associate professor, 1958-61, professor of history, 1961-66, Winthrop Professor of History, 1966-81, Adams University Professor, 1981-93, James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, 1991-93, professor emeritus, 1993–, director of Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, 1983-94.

    Colver Lecturer, Brown University, 1965;
    Phelps Lecturer, New York University, 1969;
    Trevelyan Lecturer, Cambridge University, 1971;
    Becker Lecturer, Cornell University, 1975;
    Walker-Ames Lecturer, University of Washington, 1983;
    Curti Lecturer, University of Wisconsin, 1984;
    Lewin Visiting Professor, Washington University (St. Louis, MO), 1985;
    Pitt Professor of American History, Cambridge University, 1986-87;
    Thompson Lecturer, Pomona College, 1991;

    Area of Research: Early American history, the American Revolution, and the Anglo-American world in the pre-industrial era

    Education: A.B., Williams College 1945, A.M. (1947), and Ph.D. (1953) Harvard University.

    Major Publications:

  • The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century, (Harvard University Press, 1955).
  • (With wife, Lotte Bailyn) Massachusetts Shipping, 1697-1714: A Statistical Study, (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1959).
  • Education in the Forming of American Society: Needs and Opportunities for Study, (University of North Carolina Press, 1960).
  • The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967, enlarged edition, 1992.)
  • The Origins of American Politics, (Knopf, 1968).
  • The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson, (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1974).
  • History and the Creative Imagination, (Washington University, 1985).
  • The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction, (Knopf, 1986).
  • Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution, (Knopf, 1986).
  • Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence, (Knopf, 1990).
  • The Great Republic: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century America, 1820-1920, (D. C. Heath, 1993).
  • On the Teaching and Writing of History: Responses to a Series of Questions, edited by Edward Connery Lathem, (Montgomery Endowment, 1994).
  • The Federalist Papers (Bradley Lecture Series Publication), Library of Congress, 1998.
  • To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders, Knopf, 2003).

Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Editor, with Jane N. Garrett, and author of introduction) Pamphlets of the American Revolution, 1750-1776, Volume 1, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1965.
  • (Editor) The Apologia of Robert Keayne: The Self-Portrait of a Puritan Merchant, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1965.
  • (Editor, with Donald Fleming) The Intellectual Migration: Europe and America, 1930-1960, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1969.
  • (Editor, with Donald Fleming) Law in American History, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1972.
  • (With others) The Great Republic: A History of the American People, (Heath, 1977, 4th edition, 1992).
  • (Editor, with John B. Hench) The Press and the American Revolution, (American Antiquarian Society, 1980).
  • (Editor, with Philip D. Morgan) Strangers within the Realm: Cultural Margins of the First British Empire, (University of North Carolina Press, 1991).
  • (Editor) The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters during the Struggle over Ratification, two volumes, (Library of America, 1993).
  • From Protestant Peasants to Jewish Intellectuals: The Germans in the Peopling of America (published together with Causes and Consequences of the German Catastrophe, by Heinrich August Winkler), (Berg for the German Historical Institute, 1988).
  • Editor-in-chief, “John Harvard Library,” 1962-70.
  • Editor with Donald Fleming, Perspectives in American History, annual of Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University, 1967-77, 1984-86.
  • Contributor to symposia and proceedings of professional organizations. Contributor to professional journals, including American Historical Review and William and Mary Quarterly.
  • Contributor to books including A Lyme Miscellany, 1776-1976, edited by George J. Willauer, Jr., (Wesleyan University, 1977); and Glimpses of the Harvard Past, (Harvard University Press, 1986).


Pulitzer Prizes in history, 1967, for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, and 1986, for Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution.
Bernard  Bailyn JPG Bancroft Prize, Columbia University, 1967, for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.
National Book Award in history, 1975, for The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson.
Saloutos Award, Immigration History Society, 1986, Triennial Book Award, and nomination for National Book Critics Circle Award, 1986, all for Voyagers to the West.
Kennedy Medal of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2004.
Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 2001.
Bruce Catton Prize of the Society of American Historians for lifetime achievement in the writing of history, 2000.
Medal of the Foreign Policy Association, 1998.
Henry Allen Moe Prize, American Philosophical Society, 1994.
Thomas Jefferson Medal of the American Philosophical Society, 1993.
Fellow, British Academy, and Christ’s College, Cambridge University, and Montgomery fellow, Dartmouth College, 1991.
L.H.D., Lawrence University, 1967, Bard College, 1968, Clark University, 1975, Yale University, 1976, Grinnell College, 1979, Trinity College, 1984, Manhattanville College, 1991, Dartmouth College, 1991, University of Chicago, 1991, and William and Mary College, 1994.
Litt.D., Williams College, 1969, Rutgers University, 1976, Fordham University, 1976, and Washington University (St. Louis, MO), 1988.
Recipient of first Robert H. Lord Award, Emmanuel College, 1967.
Harvard Faculty Prize, 1965, for Volume 1 of Pamphlets of the American Revolution.

Additional Info: During World War II Bailyn served in the Army Signal Corps and in the Army Security Agency.
Professor Bailyn is a member of the American Historical Association and served as President in 1981. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Education. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society, and a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Academia Europaea, and the Mexican Academy of History and Geography. He was a Trustee of the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, 1989-94.
Bailyn was the Jefferson Lecturer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1998, and the first millennium lecturer, White House, 1998.
He also serves as a Senior Fellow in the Society of Fellows.
Bailyn is Director of the Harvard’s International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World since 1995.

Posted on Sunday, March 5, 2006 at 4:48 PM

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