Bernard Bailyn (b. 1922, Hartford, Connecticut) is an American historian, author, and professor specializing in U.S. Colonial and Revolutionary-era history, looking at merchants, demographic trends, Loyalists, international links across the Atlantic, and especially the political ideas that motivated the Patriots. he is best known for promoting studies of republicanism and Atlantic History. He has been a professor at Harvard University since 1953, and has won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1968 and 1987. He was elected president of the American Historical Association, serving in 1981.
In 1953 Bernard Bailyn earned his Ph.D from Harvard University, and has been associated with the University ever since. As a graduate student at Harvard, Bailyn studied under Perry Miller, Samuel Eliot Morison, and Oscar Handlin. He became a full professor in 1961, and professor emeritus in 1993. He is currently Adams University Professor Emeritus at Harvard, and director of the International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World, 1500-1800,
He edited Pamphlets of the American Revolution, the first volume of which, published in 1965, was awarded the Faculty Prize of the Harvard University Press for that year, and editor of The Apologia of Robert Keayne (1965) and the two-volume Debate on the Constitution (1993).
He co-authored The Great Republic (1977), an American history textbook; and was co-editor of The Intellectual Migration, Europe and America, 1930-1960 (1969), Law in American History (1972), The Press and the American Revolution (1980), and Strangers within the Realm: Cultural Margins of the First British Empire (1991; see ).
Major themes and new ideas
He is known for meticulous research and for interpretations that sometimes challenge the conventional wisdom, especially those dealing with the causes and effects of the American Revolution. In his most influential work, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bailyn exhibits through a thorough analysis of pre-Revolutionary political pamphlets that the colonists believed that the British were intending on establishing a tyrannical state in the colonies that would abridge the historical rights of the colonists. He challenged the old "Progressive" view that the rhetoric was of little importance compared to social and economic conflicts. He argued instead that the Revolutionary rhetoric of liberty and freedom was not simply propagandistic but rather central to their understanding of their situation.
Bailyn argued that republicanism was at the core of the values Americans fought for. He located the intellectual sources of the American Revolution within a broader British political framework, explaining how English country Whig ideas about civic virtue, corruption, ancient rights of Englishmen, and fear of tyranny were, in the colonies, transformed into the ideology of republicanism. The American Revolution was caused by a conflict of ideas and political values, not social or economic conflicts.
In recent years Bailyn has promoted social and demographic studies, and especially the demographic flows of population int o colonial America. He is a leading advocate of the emerging topic of the history of the Atlantic world. Since 1995, Bailyn has organized an annual international seminar at Harvard designed to promote scholarship in this field ().
Former Harvard students of Bailyn's include Pulitzer Prize winners Michael Kammen, Jack N. Rakove and Gordon S. Wood. Other notable Bailyn students include Gary B. Nash (The Urban Crucible), Michael Zuckerman (Peaceable Kingdoms), Mary Beth Norton (Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800), Pauline Maier (American Scripture), James Henretta (Families and farms: Mentalite in Pre-Industrial America), prolific legal historian Peter Charles Hoffer (Law and People in Colonial America), and Bancroft Prize winners Robert Gross, Edward Countryman, and Richard L. Bushman. Each of these historians has gone on to train new generation of colonial and Revolutionary specialists in leading graduate departments.
- He did not at first use the term "republicanism," which historians adopted following the influential 1972 synthesis of scholarship by Robert E. Shalhope, "Toward a Republican Synthesis: The Emergence of an Understanding of Republicanism in American Historiography," William and Mary Quarterly, 29 (Jan. 1972), 49-80 in JSTOR .