John M. Murrin
dmund S. Morgan has transformed our past. If history is the way we understand how we have become what we are, he has profoundly reshaped that history. He began in the late 1930s and 1940s by trying to understand the Puritans. Although a lifelong atheist, he has always written with compassion and affection about Puritans and, for that matter, about any people who try hard to live up to their own principles. After World War II he turned to the American Revolution, and there, too, he discovered people with serious commitments to principles, in this case political ones. In the 1960s he immersed himself in colonial Virginia and, more specifically, in the troubling relationship between slavery and freedom. His last major book explored the political “fictions” that have given meaning and substance to Anglo-American understandings of government over the last four centuries. In a sense, that is where he began, for in 1940 he believed he would write a dissertation on Puritan political thought. He never completed that project, but the issues raised by serious political thinkers have informed nearly everything else he has studied. 1.
Edmund Sears Morgan was born in Minneapolis on January 17, 1916, the second child of Edmund Morris Morgan and Elsie Smith Morgan. His father, a descendant of Welsh coal miners, taught law at the University of Minnesota. His mother had been raised in a Christian Science family of New England lineage, although she always denied being a practicing____________________