Edmund Morgan

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Edmund S. Morgan (born January 17, 1916, in Minneapolis, Minnesota), is a leading historian specializing in American (and British) history before 1800. Morgan was Professor of History at Yale University (1955-1986), and has been emeritus professor since 1986. He directed the PhD dissertations of numerous scholars teaching at leading schools across the country. He helped convince scholars that the "Progressive" interpretation advocated by liberal historians such as Charles A. Beard was misguided and should be replaced by a more conservative interpretation of the American Revolution.

His books range across American history in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially on the Revolution, Puritan New England and the slave South. He uses intellectual, social, biographical and political history approaches. In British history he wrote 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. His study of colonial Virginia American Slavery, American Freedom (1975) won numerous awards for its depth of research, clarity of language, and cogency of argument about why Virginia adopted both slavery (for blacks) and freedom (for whites). Two early books, Birth of the Republic (1956) and The Puritan Dilemma (1958), have long been required reading in many undergraduate history courses. He has written biographies of Ezra Stiles, Roger Williams, and Benjamin Franklin.

Morgan became a Sterling Professor, Yale's highest distinctions, in 1965. Morgan was awarded the 2000 National Humanities Medal for "extraordinary contributions to American cultural life and thought." In 2006, he received a Pulitzer Prize "for a creative and deeply influential body of work as an American historian that spans the last half century." [1]

Morgan developed an interest in history at prep school (Belmont Hill School near Boston) and Harvard College. He earned his PhD at Harvard Graduate School in 1942. Morgan studied under Perry Miller. He began by teaching at the University of Chicago (1945–46) and then at Brown University (1946–55) before being called to Yale. He chairs the editorial board of The Benjamin Franklin Papers project at Yale.

Morgan's Books

  • The Puritan Family (1942) excerpt and text search
  • Virginians at Home: Family Life in the Eighteenth Century (1952)
  • The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution (1953), with Helen M. Morgan, excerpt and text search
  • The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89 (1956), short survey
  • The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (1958) excerpt and text search
  • The American Revolution: A Review of Changing Interpretations (1958), short pamphlet
  • The Mirror of the Indian: An Exhibition of Books and Other Source Materials (1958), 57pp guide to exhibit
  • 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 colonial and Revolution sections of this college textbook; several editions to 1989
  • Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (1963) excerpt and text search
  • Editor, The Founding of Massachusetts: Historians and the Sources (1964)
  • The American Revolution: Two Centuries of Interpretation (1965), short pamphlet
  • ed. Puritan Political Ideas, 1558-1794 (1965)
  • ed. The Diary of Michael Wigglesworth, 1653-1657: The Conscience of a Puritan (1965)
  • Roger Williams: The Church and the State (1967)
  • American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (1975), highly influential study. excerpt and text search
  • The Challenge of the American Revolution. New York: W. W. Norton, 1976. [Collection of essays.]
  • The Meaning of Independence: John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson (1976) excerpt and text search
  • The Genius of George Washington (1980) excerpt and text search
  • The Gentle Puritan: A Life of Ezra Stiles, 1727-1795 (1984)
  • Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1988) excerpt and text search
  • Benjamin Franklin (2002) excerpt and text search
  • The Genuine Article: A Historian Looks at Early America (2004), collected articles and reviews excerpt and text search


  • "The Historians of Early New England." In The Reinterpretation of Early American History: Essays in Honor of John Edwin Pomfret, 41-63. Ed. by Ray Allen Billington. San Marino, Calif.: The Huntington Library, 1966.
  • “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox,” The Journal of American History, 59 (Jun., 1972), 5-29 JSTOR


  • Courtwright, David T. "Fifty Years of American History: An Interview with Edmund S. Morgan," The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 44, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 336–369 in JSTOR
  • Murrin, John M. "Edmund S. Morgan," in Robert Allen Rutland, ed. Clio's Favorites: Leading Historians of the United States, 1945-2000 U of Missouri Press. (2000) pp 126–137 online edition


  1. 2006 Special Award. Pulitzer Prize.

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