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Bernard Bailyn

BAILYN, BERNARD (1922– ), U.S. historian. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Bailyn received a B.A. from Williams College in 1945 and his M.A. (1947) and Ph.D. (1953) degrees from Harvard. Bailyn then joined the faculty of Harvard in 1953 and became professor of history in 1961. He was editor-in-chief of the John Harvard Library of American Cultural History from 1962 until 1970. He also served as coeditor of the journal Perspectives in American History (1967–77, 1984–86) and director of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History (1983–94).

Bailyn became Winthrop Professor of History in 1966, a position he held until 1981, when he became the first Adams University Professor. He was also named James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, emeritus, at Harvard. He served as a senior fellow in the Society of Fellows and as director of the International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World. In 1993 he received the Thomas Jefferson Medal and in 1994 the Henry Allen Moe Prize of the American Philosophical Society. In 1998 he was appointed the Jefferson Lecturer by the National Endowment for the Humanities and he delivered the first Millennium Lecture at the White House. In 2000 he was awarded the Bruce Catton Prize of the Society of American Historians for lifetime achievement in the writing of history, and in 2001 he received the Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He also received two Pulitzer Prizes in history (1968 and 1987).

Among his many publications, Bailyn wrote The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century (1955); Massachusetts Shipping, 16971714 (with Lotte Bailyn, 1959); Education in the Forming of American Society (1960); The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967), for which he received the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes in 1968; The Origins of American Politics (1968); The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (1974), awarded the National Book Award in History in 1975; The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction (1986); Voyagers to the West (1986), which won the Pulitzer Prize in history and other awards; Faces of Revolution (1990); On the Teaching and Writing of History (1994); and To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders (2003).

Specializing in American colonial and revolutionary history, Bailyn is known for meticulous research and for interpretations that sometimes challenge conventional wisdom, especially with regard to the causes and effects of the American Revolution. Bailyn taught his students that history is primarily about change and movement, and that however hard one has to work to understand what the past was like, the deeper challenge is to explain how one part of the past gave way to another. And because change can only be described through narrative, historians must be sensitive to all the matters of exposition that make narrative effective, which always involves understanding that expository decisions are as essential to historians as their mastery of sources and all the other technical skills on which historical scholarship depends.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.