Dunning, William Archibald

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Dunning, William Archibald

William Archibald Dunning, 1857–1922, American historian, b. Plainfield, N.J., grad. Columbia (B.A., 1881; Ph. D., 1885). After studying in Berlin, he returned (1886) to spend a lifetime at Columbia, becoming the first Lieber professor of history and political philosophy in 1904. His reputation is twofold: first, his scholarly studies of Reconstruction led the way to a new interpretation of that era in American history; second, his History of Political Theories (3 vol., 1902–20) was a brilliant survey of a hitherto unanalyzed field. Dunning not only wrote two superb studies of Reconstruction—Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction (1898, rev. ed. 1904) and Reconstruction, Political and Economic, 1865–1877 (1907, repr. 1968)—but also inspired and directed the long series of books by his students on Reconstruction in the individual states. His theory of Reconstruction, which held that the freedmen proved incapable of self-government and thus made segregation necessary, dominated historical interpretation of the era until the 1960s. He also wrote The British Empire and the United States (1914), an excellent survey of Anglo-American relations. One of the founders of the American Historical Association, he was its president in 1913. J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton edited his Truth in History and Other Essays (1937).

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