George Bancroft

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George Bancroft

George Bancroft (1800-1891) was an American historian, statesman, and diplomat. He was a leading Democrat and supporter of Jacksonian Democracy. As Secretary of the Navy, he directed the Navy in the Mexican War and created the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1845. He served (1846–49) as U.S. minister to the Court of St. James (that is, ambassador to Great Britain). Bancroft opposed slavery, he abandoned his party during the sectional crisis to support Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans party. He delivered the most important eulogy of Lincoln before Congress following the president's assassination. From 1867 to 1874 he served as the U.S. minister in Berlin.

He was the son of a leading Unitarian minister. Bancroft's religious sensibility infused all his history books. Bancroft's life-work, which made him one of the best-known historians in the western world, is the multi-volume, monumental History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent, covering the entire period down to 1787, which he revised two times in its entirety. It is very solidly based on original research, and is written in a florid, oratorical style common in the mid 19th century. It presents a conservative interpretation of a new nation blessed by God and dedicated to republicanism.


  • Bancroft, George. History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent (1874 edition) online edition
  • Blumenthal, Henry. "George Bancroft in Berlin: 1867-1874." New England Quarterly 37, no. 2 (June 1964):224-41. ISSN: 0028-4866 in JSTOR
  • Canary, Robert H. George Bancroft. New York: Twayne, 1974. (A short account especially of his historiography with many quotations from Bancroft's unpublished letters.)
  • Dawes, N. H., and F. T. Nichols. "Revaluing George Bancroft." New England Quarterly 6, no. 2 (June 1933):278-93. in JSTOR
  • Handlin, Lilian. George Bancroft: The Intellectual as Democrat. (1984).
  • Howe, Mark Antony De Wolfe. The Life and Letters of George Bancroft (2 vol 1908) online vol 1' online vol 2
  • Kraus, Michael. "George Bancroft, 1834-1934." New England Quarterly 7, no. 4 (Dec. 1934):662-86. in JSTOR, evaluates his reputation as a scholar
  • Levin, David. History as Romantic Art: Bancroft, Prescott, Motley, and Parkman. (1959).
  • Lewis, Merrill. "Organic Metaphor and Edenic Myth in George Bancroft's History of the United States." Journal of the History of Ideas 26, no. 4 (Oct. 1965):587-92. ISSN: 0022-5037. in JSTOR
  • Nye, Russel B. George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel. (1944). Pulitzer Prize
  • Nye, Russel B. "The Religion of George Bancroft." Journal of Religion 19, no. 3 (July 1939): 216-33. in JSTOR
  • Ross, Dorothy. "Historical Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century America." American Historical Review 89, no. 4 (Oct. 1984):909-28. ISSN: 0002-8762. in JSTOR
  • Scheiber, Harry N. "A Jacksonian as Banker and Lobbyist: New Light on George Bancroft." New England Quarterly 37, no. 3 (Sept. 1964):363-72. in JSTOR
  • Sloane, William M. "George Bancroft - in Society, in Politics, in Letters." Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine 33, new series 11 (Nov. 1886-April 1887): 473-87. Online edition
  • Stewart, Watt."George Bancroft Historian of the American Republic," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Jun., 1932), pp. 77–86 JSTOR
  • Vitzthum, Richard C. "Theme and Method in Bancroft's History of the United States." New England Quarterly 41, no. 3 (Sept. 1968):362-380. ISSN: 0028-4866. in JSTOR
  • Vitzthum, Richard C. The American Compromise: Theme and Method in the Histories of Bancroft, Parkman, and Adams. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974. (Probably the best comparative study of Bancroft's historical work.)
  • Wish, Harvey. The American Historian: A Social-Intellectual History of the Writing of the American Past. New York: Oxford University Press, 1960. (Chapter 5 on Bancroft.) in QUESTIA


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