Bernard Bailyn : biography
Bernard Bailyn (born September 9, 1922) is an American historian, author, and professor specializing in U.S. Colonial and Revolutionary-era History. He has been a professor at Harvard University since 1953. Bailyn has won the Pulitzer Prize for History twice (in 1968 and 1987).. Past winners & finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-17. In 1998 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected him for the Jefferson Lecture. at NEH Website (retrieved January 22, 2009). He was a recipient of the 2010 National Humanities Medal.
He has specialized in American colonial and revolutionary-era history, looking at merchants, demographic trends, Loyalists, international links across the Atlantic, and especially the political ideas that motivated the Patriots. He is best known for studies of republicanism and Atlantic history that transformed the scholarship in those fields.Jack N. Rakove, "Bernard Bailyn" in Robert Allen Rutland, ed. "Clio’s Favorites: Leading Historians of the United States, 1945-2000" (2000) pp 5-22 He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1963.
Major themes and ideas
He is known for meticulous research and for interpretations that sometimes challenge the conventional wisdom, especially those dealing with the causes and effects of the American Revolution. In his most influential work, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bailyn exhibits through a thorough analysis of pre-Revolutionary political pamphlets that the colonists believed that the British intended to establish a tyrannical state that would abridge the historical rights of the colonists. He thus argued that the Revolutionary rhetoric of liberty and freedom was not simply propagandistic but rather central to their understanding of the situation. This evidence was used to displace Charles A. Beard’s theory, then the dominant understanding of the American Revolution, that the American Revolution was primarily a matter of class warfare and that the rhetoric of liberty was meaningless. Bailyn maintained that ideology was ingrained in the revolutionaries, an attitude he said exemplified the "transforming radicalism of the American Revolution."Bailyn, The ideological origins of the American Revolution (1992 edition) Page v
Bailyn argued that republicanism was at the core of the values Americans fought for. He located the intellectual sources of the American Revolution within a broader British political framework, explaining how English country Whig ideas about civic virtue, corruption, ancient rights, and fear of autocracy were, in the colonies, transformed into the ideology of republicanism.
To quote Bailyn,Bernard Bailyn, "The Central Themes of the American Revolution: An Interpretation," in S. Kurtz and J. Hutson, eds., Essays on the American Revolution (1973), pp. 26–27.
- The modernization of American Politics and government during and after the Revolution took the form of a sudden, radical realization of the program that had first been fully set forth by the opposition intelligentsia…in the reign of George the First. Where the English opposition, forcing its way against a complacent social and political order, had only striven and dreamed, Americans driven by the same aspirations but living in a society in many ways modern, and now released politically, could suddenly act. Where the English opposition had vainly agitated for partial reforms…American leaders moved swiftly and with little social disruption to implement systematically the outermost possibilities of the whole range of radically libertarian ideas.
- "In the process they…infused into American political culture…the major themes of eighteenth-century radical libertarianism brought to realization here. The first is the belief that power is evil, a necessity perhaps but an evil necessity; that it is infinitely corrupting; and that it must be controlled, limited, restricted in every way compatible with a minimum of civil order. Written constitutions; the separation of powers; bill of rights; limitations on executives, on legislatures, and courts; restrictions on the right to coerce and wage war—all express the profound distrust of power that lies at the ideological heart of the American Revolution and that has remained with us as a permanent legacy ever after.