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Harvard Historians' Memoirs: A Chronological Sampler

November-December 2004

* Henry Adams, A.B. 1858, The Education of Henry Adams (1907/1918): circulated privately among the author's friends in 1907, then published after Adams's death in 1918, The Education is a classic portrait of a historically sensitive author at odds with his times.

* Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Litt.D. '63, In Retrospect: The History of a Historian (1963): records the author's childhood in the same Ohio town portrayed in Helen Santmyer's bestseller ...And Ladies of the Club, as well as his contributions to Harvard and to liberal political causes from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Arthur Meier Schlesinger Jr. '38, Jf '43, LL.D. '01, followed his father as historian, political activist, and autobiographer. A Life in the Twentieth Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950 (2000) is intended to be continued by a second volume featuring his experience in Washington in the 1960s.

* William Langer '15, Ph.D. '23, LL.D. '45, In and Out of the Ivory Tower (1977): Langer was a dominant figure in European history at Harvard for four decades. As director of the Office of Strategic Services' research and analysis division, he established the connection between Harvard and the wartime intelligence effort that affected so many Harvard-connected historians' lives.

* John King Fairbank '29, LL.D. '70, Chinabound: A Fifty-Year Memoir (1982): Fairbank made Harvard a world center for the study of Chinese history. His memoir also offers important insights into the shaping of American policy toward China in the 1940s and Vietnam in the 1960s.

* Edwin O. Reischauer, Ph.D. '39, LL.D. '67, My Life between Japan and America (1986): Reischauer did for Japanese studies at Harvard what Fairbank did for Chinese studies. Born in Japan, the son of an American missionary, he served as American ambassador to Japan in the 1960s and narrowly survived an attempted assassination.

The Historian-Autobiographers

See also:

H. Stuart Hughes

Ivy League Insider

Arthur Meier Schlesinger Sr.

* H. Stuart Hughes, Ph.D. '40, Gentleman Rebel: The Memoirs of H. Stuart Hughes (1990): The most personally revealing of Harvard historians' memoirs, by a faculty member whose relations with the institution were deeply ambivalent.

* Jill Ker Conway, Ph.D. '69, True North (1994): this sequel to Conway's classic memoir of her Australian childhood, The Road from Coorain (1990), covers her graduate-student years at Harvard in the 1960s and her pathbreaking contributions to the development of women's history at the University of Toronto in the 1970s.

* Richard Pipes, Ph.D. '50, Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger (2003): the combative Russian historian, whose family escaped from Poland just after the Nazi invasion of 1939, combines recollections of 50 years at Harvard with poison-pen portraits of his colleagues in the Reagan White House in the early 1980s.

The autobiographical reminiscences of numerous Harvard-connected historians have been published in collaborative volumes and interview series, particularly Douglas Greenberg and Stanley N. Katz, eds., The Life of Learning (1994), Henry Abelove et al., eds., Visions of History (1984), and the series of autobiographical interviews published in The Historian, the journal of the history honors society Phi Alpha Theta, between 1990 and 2001.