Edmund S. Morgan Jan. 17, 1916 - July 8, 2013 Historian Who Chronicled the Puritans

Article excerpt

Edmund S. Morgan, an award-winning historian who illuminated the intellectual world of the Puritans, explored the paradox of freedom and slavery in Colonial Virginia and, in his 80s, wrote a best- selling biography of Benjamin Franklin, died Monday in New Haven, Conn. He was 97.

His death was confirmed by his editor, Robert Weil.

Like his mentor and fellow atheist, Harvard historian Perry Miller, Mr. Morgan found his richest material in the religious thought of Puritan New England and endless fascination in the theological debates and spiritual struggles of men like John Winthrop, Roger Williams and Ezra Stiles.

"I think that any group of people who have a system of belief that covers practically everything, and who act upon it, are bound to be interesting to any scholar," he said in a 1987 interview with The William and Mary Quarterly.

His elegantly written, succinct biographies and studies of early New England, respected by specialists but accessible to undergraduates, became required reading for several generations of college students.

"As a historian of Colonial and revolutionary America, he was one of the giants of his generation, and a writer who could well have commanded a larger nonacademic audience than I suspect he received," said Pauline Maier, a professor of American history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. …