Dr. Clyde N. Wilson is known to many through his association with the Abbeville Institute and his long tenure as editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun. Some might have read Why the South Will Survive: Fifteen Southerners Look at Their Region a Half Century after I’ll Take My Stand. The well-versed have likely read his Southern Readers Guide series, likely adding a few volumes to their shelves.

But deeper still lies the Dictionary of Literary Biography. He edited three volumes, with Volume 17, Twentieth-Century American Historians, being my particular focus here. Though I didn’t tally the numbers, this book certainly swelled the ranks of my library. Dr. Wilson nails down the aim of the book in his foreword: “This volume contains literary biographies of fifty-nine historical writers. To be eligible for inclusion, writers had to meet three criteria. They had to be American; their historical writings had to be concentrated chiefly upon the United States; and their most important work had to fall within the twentieth century.”

Of the 59 historians covered, 14 get a more detailed treatment: Charles M. Andrews, Charles A. Beard, Daniel Boorstin, Douglas Southall Freeman, Richard Hofstadter, Perry Miller, Samuel Eliot Morison, Allan Nevins, Vernon L. Parrington, Ulrich B. Phillips, David M. Potter, Frederick Jackson Turner, T. Harry Williams, and C. Vann Woodward.

American history in the early part of the century was dominated by New Englanders of Federalist and patrician heritage, with a strong opposition provided by frontier-oriented or “Progressive” Middle Westerners. Since World War I, “liberal” writers and themes have predominated, though with a continuing, strong, and often subtle counterpoint by Southern and other “conservative” writers. The 1960s and 1970s created other movements and schools that are not yet fully developed. – Clyde Wilson

Besides the thrill of discovering books for my collection, I appreciate how each biographer guides you to a high vantage point. From there, you see the lay of the land. They provide highlights, details, and context. After ascending 59 hills, you understand the 20th-century American historical scene well enough to venture off on your own.

The 59 American Historians:

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James Truslow Adams (1878-1949) by C. James Taylor

Donald Davidson read and wrote about him, even mentioned him in his American Composition and Rhetoric. Yankee from Brooklyn, NY. Hated the Puritans. His favorite historian was Francis Parkman. He didn’t like the work of John Gorham Palfrey which led him to write his New England Trilogy. Bernard DeVoto blasted his later work. Called a hack when he signed with Charles Scribner. Big Jefferson fan and wrote on Sectionalism/Regionalism. Wasn’t sold on “Progress”. John Donald Wade had correspondence with Adams.

“The American Dream, as a talismanic phrase, is traceable to a book called The Epic of America, by the popular historian James Truslow Adams, published in 1931.  “If,” Adams wrote, ‘the [accomplishments] already listed were all we [Americans] had to contribute, Americans would have made no distinctive and unique gift to mankind.  But there has also been an American Dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement’.” Chronicles, Chilton Williamson, “The American Dream”

Charles McLean Andrews (1863-1943) by Jessica Kross

Of old-line Yankee stock, his earliest ancestor helped to found New Haven in 1638. He was part of the Imperial School of American Colonial History, alongside Lawrence Henry Gipson, Herbert Levi Osgood, George Lewis Beer, Edward Channing, and Charles McLean Andrews. Their goal was to correct past patriotic partisanship by examining America’s colonial and revolutionary past in the context of the larger British Empire. Andrews sought to emphasize the “colonial” in colonial history. Called the dean of America’s colonial historians during his lifetime, Andrews won the Pulitzer Prize for The Colonial Period of American History: The Settlements, volume I, in 1935.

Bernard Bailyn (1922-2020) by A. Roger Ekirch

From New England. Bernard Bailyn has left a distinct imprint on early American history, his writings spanning from seventeenth-century New England trade to the Revolution’s origins.

John Spencer Bassett (1867-1928) by Herbert J. Doherty, Jr.

A liberal North Carolinian, he penned the first scholarly biography of Andrew Jackson and edited the seven-volume Correspondence of Andrew Jackson. Historians often remember him as a key figure in an academic freedom battle in early 20th-century North Carolina. He founded the South Atlantic Quarterly and belonged to the first generation of professionally trained historians, bringing a revolution in Southern historical inquiry with their “scientific” methods. His life ended abruptly when he was struck by a car while alighting from the train.

Howard K. Beale (1899-1959) by Allan D. Charles

From Chicago, he specialized in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American history. Leading a revisionist school, he worked to rehabilitate Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction administration. A close friend of Charles A. Beard, he supported the economic interpretation of history and wrote on Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. He taught C. Vann Woodward and George B. Tindall. Dr. Wilson wrote about Beale’s approach to history.

Charles A. Beard (1874-1948) by John Braeman

Frederick Jackson Turner and Charles A. Beard spearheaded the progressive challenge to the nationalist historians. Hailing from small towns, they emphasized the West and South in shaping America. Charles’s father, William, left North Carolina for Indiana during the Civil War due to his pro-Union stance. Beard’s influence on 20th-century American thought was unmatched, shifting political science to realistic analysis, pioneering public administration, and revamping education. His economic interpretation of history and “New History” sought to use the past to better the present and future.

Carl Becker (1873-1945) by Milton M. Klein

From Iowa, he was a historian of both history and the United States. Known for raising provocative questions, he was a subjective relativist part of the Progressive and “New” History trend from 1910 to 1945. His father, a Union veteran, Republican, Methodist, and Mason, influenced him greatly. He liked to think of himself more as a thinker about history than a historian.

Jaffa quotes Becker on his Lincoln debate with Mel Bradford. Bradford’s reply:

“I will not reopen my conversation with Professor Jaffa concerning the Declaration of Independence except to say that there are ways of construing that document which are unrelated to both the reductionist gloss of Carl Becker and the philosophical paraphrase of Jaffa’s Straussian dogmatics.”

Samuel Flagg Bemis (1891-1973) by Kendrick A. Clements

A Massachusetts Yankee, he broke new ground, arguing that the true history of international relations required sifting through every nation’s records. His books, some nearly sixty years old, are still the go-to sources.

Albert J. Beveridge (1862-1927) by Herbert A. Johnson

Known as the “Prophet of Imperialism,” Beveridge came from a struggling family in Highland County, Ohio, and moved to Illinois at three. He labored in menial jobs, taking charge of a logging crew by fifteen. His Lincoln biography, with its “pro-Southern” slant, was shaped by the “plantation school” of Southern historians, particularly Ulrich B. Phillips.

Herbert E. Bolton (1870-1953) by Amy Bushnell

From Wisconsin, Herbert Eugene Bolton found his calling in the “Spanish Borderlands” of Northern New Spain and Florida, a field that had been largely ignored by historians in the United States and Latin America. His work, associated with the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, opened new vistas in historical literature. Often ranked alongside Frederick Jackson Turner and Walter Prescott Webb as a key historian of the American frontier.

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-2004) by Frank Annunziata

Born in Atlanta and relocated to Oklahoma at a young age, emerged as the leading voice for the “consensus” perspective on American history and institutions

A few years ago I was in the living room of Dr. Daniel Boorstin in suburban Chicago, and he was lamenting the passing of regional differences. He had been on a recent trip to Columbia, South Carolina, and “I might as well have been in South Dakota,” he said. – Sam Ragan, “North Carolina Writers and the Southern Tradition, Review of North Carolina Fiction, 1972-1973” (North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 51, No. 2 (April, 1974), pp. 183-189)

Claude G. Bowers (1878-1958) by Michael Bordelon

From Indiana, Claude Gernade Bowers wasn’t a self-righteous Yankee, a staunch Southern partisan, a radical, or deeply profound. Instead, he was diligent, orthodox, and supremely democratic—the workingman’s historian. Bowers never attended college. “There has always been a disposition in some quarters to dismiss the Middle West as drab and uninteresting, and yet I think the Midwesterner especially typifies the American way of life,” he wrote in his autobiography, reflecting both his life and work.

Gamaliel Bradford (1863-1932) by Marion Edmonds

Uber-Yankee from Boston, Gamaliel Bradford, a direct descendant of Governor Bradford of Plymouth, produced 114 biographical sketches from 1912 to 1932. Preferring essays over traditional biography, he used “psychography,” mixing anecdotes and quotes to reveal character.

Bruce Catton (1899-1978) by Carol Reardon

From Michigan, the Civil War historian and longtime editor of American Heritage magazine mastered “popular” history. His Civil War narratives attracted both general readers and professionals.

Edward Channing (1856-1931) by George D. Terry

A New Englander with a distinct bias, Channing was the last of the historians, like Bancroft and McMaster, to attempt a complete history of the United States, nearly finishing it. He argued that blacks do not have a history. Under Henry Adams at Harvard, Channing viewed American history as evolutionary, emphasizing the union’s triumph over particularism. He was part of the imperial school.

“In the early 20th century the American Nation series was published as a definitive multi-volume history of America for libraries and upper-middle-class parlors. The volume on the Jefferson era was given to the Harvard historian Edward Channing. He describes Jefferson as “shambling”  and his administration as incompetent. In 1905 New Englanders are still manly and dignified achievers and  Southerners are  still sloppy and contemptible.” – Clyde Wilson

Thomas C. Cochran (1902-1999) by Steven P. Gietschier

A New Yorker, probably a Socialist, and certainly a radical, Thomas Cochran’s lasting impact was defining business history as a distinct part of American history. Known as the dean of business history, he spent half a century arguing it was separate from economic history. Cochran believed business history was key to social history, shaping American social change since colonial times.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) by Lawrence Wells Cobb

From Pittsburgh, He spent over fifty years making American history accessible. He wanted everyone to understand their heritage and take part in the democratic experiment started in the eighteenth century. With family ties to both sides of the Civil War, he avoided simple comparisons to the present. In 1930, he and Samuel Eliot Morison balanced regional biases in their book, The Growth of the American Republic.

Avery Craven  (1885-1980) by John David Smith

Avery Odelle Craven, historian of the American South, agriculture, and Civil War causes, earned a reputation for his “revisionist” views. Writing during a crucial shift in historiography, Craven was initially influenced by Edward Channing, William E. Dodd, Albert Bushnell Hart, Frederick Jackson Turner, and Ulrich Bonnell Phillips. By the late 1930s, he began to challenge their perspectives, seeing this as a necessary evolution. The Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, and the Cold War profoundly shaped his outlook.

Merle E. Curti (1897-1996) by David L. Carlton

From the plains of Nebraska, Merle Curti championed the stories of everyday Americans. As a progressive historian, he carried forward the legacy of early 20th-century scholars, preserving their work and making it accessible to the post-WWII generation. His focus on the common folk placed him at the heart of American Studies and the “new social history,” despite his works no longer being central to the canon.

William E. Dodd  (1869-1940) by Wayne Mixon

William Edward Dodd, a North Carolinian and a pioneer in studying the Old South, never forgot his roots despite spending over thirty years in Northern cities and abroad. His historical reputation is built on his writings about the South, exploring its ties with other regions and how these relationships influenced the nation’s history.

David H. Donald (1920-2009) by John McCardell

Mississippi-born David Herbert Donald has spent his esteemed career examining nineteenth-century America. Known for his exceptional teaching and influential scholarship, Donald ranks among the top authorities on the Civil War era. A link to some of his book reviews

William A. Dunning  (1857-1922) by Anne W. Chapman

William Archibald Dunning, a New Jersey native, was a major figure among early American historians. A historian, political scientist, teacher, and editor, he taught at Columbia University from 1886 to 1922. Dunning’s ambitious study of political philosophy was notable, but his interpretation of Reconstruction after the Civil War proved to be his most enduring contribution, shaping discourse for over fifty years. Dunning’s influence on historical scholarship regarding the South and on how we research and narrate Southern history is profound. As a scholar, teacher, and editor, he set the professional standards that steered a generation of American historians and political scientists.

Shelby Foote (1916-2005) by Clyde N. Wilson

In the landscape of twentieth-century American historical literature, Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative holds a distinctive place. George Garrett called it the most ambitious work completed by an American novelist in this era, while Louis D. Rubin extolled its objective scope and the beauty of its prose, comparing it to the works of great historian-artists. Conversely, academic historians have been reserved in their praise, possibly because, as C. Vann Woodward pointed out, their shift towards analytical history has led them to neglect the narrative, once the historian’s most revered task.

Douglas Southall Freeman  (1886-1953) by John L. Gignilliat

Freeman, a Virginian devoted to chronicling the lives of Virginians, was revered during his lifetime as the preeminent expert on Confederate military history, as acclaimed by academics and the popular press alike. His major works, R. E. Lee and Lee’s Lieutenants, noted for their expansive narrative and meticulous detail, have been celebrated as literary classics. A prominent public figure in Virginia as the editor of an influential Richmond newspaper, Freeman achieved national fame in the last twenty years of his life and was widely considered one of the leading American historians of his era. His final work, George Washington, though not as authoritative as his Confederate studies, is a monumental biography that reinforces his status among the century’s foremost American biographers.

John A. Garraty (1920-2007) by Justus D. Doenecke

John Arthur Garraty of New York has earned his place as a top historian in America. He’s particularly noted for his work in economic history, biography, and the eras of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Garraty also led the Society of American Historians between 1969 and 1971, playing a crucial role in the society and its publication, American Heritage.

Eugene D. Genovese (1930-2012) by Michael Bordelon

A figure of both influence and controversy, Eugene Dominick Genovese, in the twilight of his career, renounced his Marxist atheism to return to his childhood faith, Roman Catholicism. He studied the master-slave relationship in the antebellum South more thoroughly than any before him. His masterwork, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, awarded the Bancroft Prize in 1975, is poised to remain a timeless piece.

Lawrence Henry Gipson  (1880-1971) by J. Barton Starr

With a vast literary output that includes more than 150 books, articles, and reviews, Lawrence Henry Gipson stands out as a leading historian of America’s colonial and revolutionary periods. His extensive fifteen-volume work, The British Empire Before the American Revolution, published between 1936 and 1970, is hailed by reviewers as monumental and magisterial, a definitive “history on a grand scale.” One critic predicted that this work would continue to be consulted for at least a hundred years.

Oscar Handlin (1915-2011) by Arnold Shankman

At Harvard University, Oscar Handlin, both historian and librarian, became one of the most influential American historians of the twentieth century. His pioneering contributions span ethnic, social, and urban history. Equally skilled in addressing scholars and the general public, Handlin has trained numerous leading historians

Albert Bushnell Hart  (1854-1943) by Shirley A. Hickson

Albert Bushnell Hart, a Harvard professor, was instrumental in making history and government compelling subjects for students. Beyond teaching, he was a key organizer and an enthusiastic promoter of American history, contributing widely as a prolific writer.

Robert Selph Henry  (1889-1970) by Thomas Fleming

From Clifton, Tennessee, Robert Selph Henry was a historian who narrated the Southern saga from the Mexican War through the end of Reconstruction, a period he deemed critical to the emergence of the American nation. His works, rooted in deep research and presented in a popular style, engaged readers for decades. Though his amateur status has led to a decline in recognition, Henry’s extensive experience as a newspaperman, lawyer, railroad executive, and soldier provided him with a rich perspective, making him an exemplary amateur historian.

Douglas Southall Freeman, testifying to the popularity and respect accorded to Henry’s history, said:

I regard The Story of the Confederacy … as… at present the book with which to begin one’s study of the period it covers and the book to which to return when everything else on the subject has been read.”

Richard Hofstadter  (1916-1970) by Paula S. Fass

As a preeminent American historian from the era spanning World War II to the Vietnam War, he exemplified the cosmopolitan, intellectual culture of New York. A staunch advocate for cultural pluralism, internationalism, and secular modernism, he engaged in lifelong intellectual disputes with Charles Beard. He argued that the history of slavery should be written largely from the slaves’ perspective, offering a critique of Ulrich B. Phillips.

J. Franklin Jameson  (1859-1937) by Richard A. Shrader

J. Franklin Jameson, a New England native and a historian of many talents including teaching, editing, organizing, and collecting, was a pioneer in promoting rigorous historical scholarship. More than his own writings, it was his ability to provide essential source materials and inspiration to fellow historians that secured his esteemed reputation. His academic foundation was laid at Johns Hopkins University, where he studied under Herbert Baxter Adams.

Merrill Jensen  (1905-1980) by Michael E. Stevens

Merrill Jensen, sometimes dubbed the last of the Progressive historians, regarded that title with bemusement. Following in the footsteps of Charles Beard and Carl Becker, his works explored the turbulent political conflicts in America from 1763 to 1789. Jensen’s writings, known for their bold and iconoclastic nature, robustly supported his theory of an internal revolution, subsequently quashed by a counter-revolutionary Constitution.

Arthur S. Link (1920-1998) by Marcia G. Synnott

Arthur S. Link of Virginia, a biographer and editor who also directed the comprehensive project to publish Woodrow Wilson’s letters and papers, is acknowledged as the leading historian of the twenty-eighth president, unmatched in his field.

Dumas Malone (1892-1986) by Paul A. Horne, Jr.

From Mississippi, Dumas Malone distinguished himself as an educator, historian, and editor who specialized in biographical history. He prioritized factual accuracy, contextualized events within their times, and approached his subjects with fairness and integrity. His adherence to these principles has made him a model for biographical writers of the twentieth century.

Forrest McDonald (1927-2016) by Justus D. Doenecke

Hamiltonian Texan, McDonald was one of the most prolific and debated figures in contemporary history. His career started with a study on Wisconsin’s utilities in 1957 and has evolved to examining Southern ethnicity, always challenging established myths. A pronounced conservative, he was the state chairman for the Goldwater campaign in Rhode Island in 1964 and contributed to the National Review since 1978.

Perry Miller  (1905-1963) by Robert M. Calhoon

A scholar of the Puritans and New England, he was academically trained in literature but made his mark interpreting history. As an agnostic, he engaged with Calvinist theology more earnestly than any other American intellectual since Jonathan Edwards.

Edmund S. Morgan  (1916-2013) by William D. Liddle

Along with Bernard Bailyn, he placed the family at the center of early American history studies, situating himself among notable scholars from Bancroft to Morison who explored America’s foundational strengths. Under Perry Miller’s guidance, he believed that passionate ideas could shape human conduct. His approach to the Puritans was humanizing, and while he often countered progressive historical views, simply classifying him as a Neo-Whig historian would overlook his acknowledgment of the progressive evolution of ideas.

Samuel Eliot Morison  (1887-1976) by B. D. Bargar

With a pronounced New England perspective, Morison viewed history predominantly as a literary art, following the tradition of Bancroft and Parkman. He consciously avoided contemporary trends such as economic determinism and psychohistory, focusing instead on the literary crafting of history. While many admired Morison for his scholarly gentility, others perceived his aristocratic air and yacht-club style as signs of arrogance. He was quick to dismiss “armchair navigators” with disdain and did not hesitate to criticize American historians unfamiliar with ancient or modern European languages. However, he was equally comfortable conversing with elderly Boston ladies, fishermen from Down East, U.S. presidents, and common seamen.

Richard B. Morris  (1904-1989) by Peter A. Coclanis

With academic tenures at both the City College of New York and Columbia University, Morris has earned a reputation as one of the twentieth century’s most versatile and prolific scholars. His expertise primarily lies in early American legal and economic history, but his academic pursuits have also spanned Jewish history, juvenile literature, the diplomatic history of the American Revolution, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency.

Allan Nevins  (1890-1971) by Richard M. McMurry

Joseph Allan Nevins, undoubtedly among the greatest and most prolific American historians of the twentieth century, offered the only significant post-World War II full-scale, balanced reinterpretation of the Civil War-Reconstruction era. Nevins was far from being just an academic; he was a journalist for nearly two decades before he turned to academia at the age of forty. He kept a keen interest in the wider world, particularly in literature and politics. His military service in World War I ended quickly due to medical discharge, and in World War II, he suffered a broken leg on an obstacle course at the age of fifty. Nevins’s habit of omnivorous reading enriched his writings with countless quotations and examples.

Roy F. Nichols  (1896-1973) by Carol Reardon

Roy Franklin Nichols, who long served as a history professor and dean of the graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, is regarded as a leading interpreter of nineteenth-century American political history. Nichols was ahead of his time in contextualizing political events within their cultural frameworks, drawing extensively on psychology, sociology, and the sciences from the 1930s to provide a deeper humanistic perspective to traditional narrative political history.

Reinhold Niebuhr  (1892-1971) by David L. Carlton

Though not strictly a historian, Reinhold Niebuhr, a liberal Christian, infused his writings with historical examples to support his philosophical arguments on public policy. This approach causes his works to age quickly and stand apart from traditional historiography. His significant historical contributions are found in two books that explore the philosophy of history and its practical applications.

Frank L. Owsley  (1890-1956) by M. E. Bradford

Just as Samuel Eliot Morison represented Massachusetts, Bruce Catton depicted Michigan, and Walter Prescott Webb embodied Texas, Frank Lawrence Owsley was synonymous with Alabama. In each case, their origin influenced their historical focus, linking their native identity to their scholarly pursuits. Owsley entered the field of history driven by a desire to challenge and rectify prevailing misconceptions about his people’s past.

As he wrote to his friend Allen Tate, “The purpose of my life is to undermine by ‘careful’ and ‘detached,’ ‘well documented,’ ‘objective’ writing, the entire Northern myth from 1820 to 1876.”

Vernon L. Parrington  (1871-1929) by Michael O’Brien

Vernon Louis Parrington, the mind behind Main Currents in American Thought, a key Jeffersonian analysis of American intellectual history, is counted among the Progressive historians. Distinct from contemporaries like Charles Beard and Frederick Jackson Turner, Parrington’s influence hinges on an unfinished but pivotal work. His career trajectory—rising from obscurity, reaching fame, and then fading from contemporary discourse—mirrors the agrarian rebellions he admired. From the periphery of America, he made a brief, profound impact, receding quietly but leaving a profound scholarly legacy.

Ulrich B. Phillips  (1877-1934) by Kirk Wood

By virtue of his pioneering research in areas like politics, transportation, and slavery, coupled with his extensive efforts to uncover and bring to light primary sources, Phillips rightly stands as the founding father of modern Southern history. Phillips was celebrated during his life as the definitive expert on the Old South, particularly on slavery and plantations. Though early critics such as Carter G. Woodson, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Frederic Bancroft were not silent, it wasn’t until after Phillips’s death that his standing significantly declined. The post-World War II era, led by historians like Kenneth M. Stampp, brought a new scrutiny to Phillips’s methodology and views.

David M. Potter  (1910-1971) by Mark T. Carleton

At the time of his death in 1971, Georgia-born David Morris Potter held the presidency of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. His extensively researched and insightful publications on a variety of topics, including the South, the Civil War, and the American character, led many of his fellow historians to consider him the preeminent American historian of the mid-twentieth century.

James G. Randall  (1881-1953) by John David Smith

As a biographer of Abraham Lincoln and a historian of the Civil War, James Garfield Randall was instrumental in establishing these topics as key fields of study among professional historians.

Carl Sandburg  (1878-1967) by Mark E. Neely, Jr.

Socialist Carl Sandburg played a crucial role in maintaining Abraham Lincoln’s popularity into the twentieth century through his expansive biographical work.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.  (1917-2007) by Edwin A. Miles

Since World War II, Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr. has been perhaps the most recognized and controversial historian in the nation. He has claimed two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Book Awards, and his books have seen both high sales and considerable public engagement. Schlesinger’s influence extends through his frequent writings for popular media, despite facing criticism from figures like Donald Davidson, who labeled him a Marxist.

Kenneth M. Stampp  (1912-2009) by John G. Sproat

Kenneth M. Stampp, molded during the Great Depression, was influenced by the socialist-pacifist leanings of his German-American community and later by New Deal liberalism. Stampp’s career as a social and political historian has been dedicated to examining the democratic experience in America, emphasizing its humanistic and ethnic dimensions. His principal works focus on the breakdown of democracy in sectional conflicts, slavery before the Civil War, and the blend of idealism and self-interest during the Reconstruction period. Though his main interest is mid-nineteenth-century America, his research also considers the broader workings of democratic societies.

Frederick Jackson Turner  (1861-1932) by Odie B. Faulk

Turner is primarily celebrated for his “Frontier Thesis,” but his “Sectional Thesis” has also left a lasting impact on the field of historiography, offering insights into how regional differences influence the course of American history.

Walter Prescott Webb  (1888-1963) by Thomas L. Connelly

Following Walter Prescott Webb’s death in 1963, Texas Governor John Connally praised him as the premier interpreter of Texas to both the nation and the world. Connally highlighted Webb’s dual life as both a distinguished scholar and a true son of the Great Plains. Webb, who literally lived the history he wrote about, managed cattle, joined Texas Rangers on manhunts, and explored Texas’s natural wonders to bring them to national attention. When asked about the genesis of his seminal work, The Great Plains, Webb famously answered, “When I was four.”

Bell Irvin Wiley  (1906-1980) by John Barnwell

Bell Wiley, a Tennessean and one of the most prolific scholars of his generation, pioneered the social history of American soldiers. He addressed the lives of the “plain people—men and women, white and black—caught up in the maelstrom of civil war,” ensuring their experiences were documented.

T. Harry Williams (1909-1979) by Joseph G. Dawson III

Williams, a master of the written and spoken word, dedicated forty years to significant writing and editing. He focused on the leadership, both civilian and military, during the Civil War, culminating in a detailed analysis of Huey Long, the controversial governor and senator from Louisiana during the Great Depression.

William Appleman Williams  (1921-1990) by William Marina

Socialist William Appleman Williams stands as a key figure in the “New Left” approach to American history. His revisionist interpretation, emphasizing “open door imperialism,” has left a significant mark on younger scholars. His career, however, has been fraught with controversy, especially during his election to the presidency of the Organization of American Historians for 1981-1982.

Carter G. Woodson  (1875-1950) by Edward L. Cox

Carter Godwin Woodson is broadly acknowledged as the father of modern black history.

Chase Steely

Chase Steely is a Tennessean, Veteran, and Student of all things Southern.

One Comment

  • David LeBeau says:

    Thank you, Chase!

    My library is rapidly expanding, but my reading time has not correlated. How to better manage my leisure time?

    Dr. Clyde N. Wilson is my favorite and my go to Historian. I do my best to introduce The Abbeville Institute to family & friends and recommend that they read all things by Clyde Wilson. I’m not giving up on “What’s true and valuable in the Southern Tradition.”

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