Edmund Sears Morgan
an eminent authority on early American history
The history of the United States traditionally starts with the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776, although its territory was inhabited by Native Americans since prehistoric times and then by European colonists who followed the voyages of Christopher Columbus starting in 1492. The...
, is Emeritus Professor of History at Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...
, where he taught from 1955 to 1986.
Morgan's interest in history grew while he attended Belmont Hill School
Belmont Hill School is a prestigious independent boys school located on a campus in Belmont, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. The school enrolls approximately 440 students in grades 7-12, separated into the Middle School and the Upper School , and refers to these grades as "Forms" with a Roman...
outside of Boston, and while he was an undergraduate at Harvard
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...
. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization there in 1942, studying under Perry Miller
Perry G. Miller was an American intellectual historian and Harvard University professor. He was an authority on American Puritanism, and a founder of the field of American Studies. Alfred Kazin referred to him as "the master of American intellectual history"...
. He began his teaching career at the University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...
(1945–46) and then at Brown
Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...
(1946–55) before becoming a professor at Yale, where he directed many PhD dissertations in colonial history.
He has written many books covering a range of topics in the history of the colonial and Revolutionary periods, using intellectual, social, biographical and political history approaches. Two of his early books, Birth of the Republic (1956) and The Puritan Dilemma (1958), have for decades been required reading in many undergraduate history courses. His works include 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, and Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1988), which won Columbia University's Bancroft Prize
The Bancroft Prize is awarded each year by the trustees of Columbia University for books about diplomacy or the history of the Americas. It was established in 1948 by a bequest from Frederic Bancroft...
in American History in 1989. He has also written biographies of Ezra Stiles
Ezra Stiles was an American academic and educator, a Congregationalist minister, theologian and author. He was president of Yale College .-Early life:...
, Roger Williams
Roger Williams was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams started the first Baptist church in America,...
, and Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...
Morgan in 1975 argued that Virginians in the 1650s--and for the next two centuries--turned to slavery and a racial divide as an alternative to class conflict. "Racism made it possible for white Virginians to develop a devotion to the equality that English republicans had declared to be the soul of liberty." That is, white men became politically much more equal than was possible without a population of low-status slaves.
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 Douglass Adair Memorial Award for scholarship in early American history, and in 1986 he received the Distinguished Scholar Award of the American Historical Association. He has also won numerous fellowships and garnered a number of honorary degrees and named lectureships. He became a Sterling Professor
A Sterling Professorship is the highest academic rank at Yale University, awarded to a tenured faculty member considered one of the best in his or her field...
, one of Yale's highest distinctions, in 1965. Morgan was awarded the 2000 National Humanities Medal
The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.The award, given by the...
by the U.S. President Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...
at a ceremony for "extraordinary contributions to American cultural life and thought." In 2006, he received a Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...
"for a creative and deeply influential body of work as an American historian that spans the last half century."
- Virginians at Home: Family Life in the Eighteenth Century (1952)
- The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution (1953), with Helen M. Morgan
- The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89 (1956)
- The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (1958)
- The American Revolution: A Review of Changing Interpretations (1958)
- The Mirror of the Indian (1958)
- Editor, Prologue to the Revolution: Sources and Documents on the Stamp Act Crisis, 1764-1766 (1959)
- The National Experience: A History of the United States (1963) coauthor of textbook; several editions
- Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (1963)
- Editor, The Founding of Massachusetts: Historians and the Sources (1964)
- The American Revolution: Two Centuries of Interpretation (1965)
- Puritan Political Ideas, 1558-1794 (1965)
- The Diary of Michael Wigglesworth, 1653-1657: The Conscience of a Puritan (1965)
- The Puritan Family ( 1966)
- Roger Williams: The Church and the State (1967)
- So What about History? (1969)
- American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (1975)
- The Meaning of Independence: John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson (1976, reprint with new foreword, 2004)
- The Genius of George Washington (1980)
- The Gentle Puritan: A Life of Ezra Stiles, 1727-1795 (1984)
- Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1988)
- Benjamin Franklin (2002)
- The Genuine Article: A Historian Looks at Early America (2004), collected articles and reviews
- American Heroes: Profiles of Men and Women Who Shaped Early America (2009), collection of essays