A selection of essays -- even a rather large one -- only suggests the range of serious interests reflected in the career of Marcus Cunliffe. Here is a man who has studied, spoken, written, and published on Crèvecoeur and Stephen Crane, F. O. Matthiessen and James Madison, Mark Twain, and Frances Trollope. His most widely read works deal with literary history, military history in both its narrow and broad dimensions, George Washington, and the American presidency. He has published two ambitious period histories: 1789-1837 and 1848-1917. In addition, Cunliffe has produced substantial works on education, historiography, property, and republicanism.
The key to appreciating this personal intellectual history, however, only begins with an admiration for its breadth. There are a small number of large topics that have provided substantive focus within the canon. Furthermore, there is a remarkable consistency of tone. Over four decades, while literary theories and fashions in historical interpretation have brushed all colors of the spectrum, Cunliffe's irenic voice has maintained its own tenor, avoiding fads and controversy, beguiling auditors of every persuasion.
This Englishman's direct discovery of America started in 1947 with a two-year fellowship at Yale University. Thereafter his presence here, frequently as a visiting professor and since 1980 as a permanent resident, has made him the most American of Englishmen.
Moreover, as a student at Yale, Cunliffe was caught up very early in an excitingly controversial and thoroughly American intellectual movement. Introduced by David Potter to the sociological study of the American national character and by Ralph Gabriel to an original style of intellectual history, Cunliffe absorbed the new scholarship that was bringing out the unities in American culture, while playing down the sharp social conflicts that an older generation of