John Tate Lanning (born 1902, died 15 August 1976, Durham, North Carolina) was a historian of Spanish America and held the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus position at Duke University. He was a major scholar of colonial Spanish American history and worked to strengthen organizations devoted to Latin American scholarship. In one obituary he was called, “a true giant” in the field. His work on the Spanish Enlightenment in Spanish America challenged received understandings of Spanish obscurantism. In 1957, Lanning’s book The Eighteenth-Century Enlightenment in the University of San Carlos de Guatemala won the first Herbert E. Bolton Prize of the Conference on Latin American History for the best book in English. He served as editor of The Hispanic American Historical Review, expanding its readership and maintaining high standards for each issue. He served as chair of the Conference on Latin American History, the professional organization of Latin American historians, in 1958.
Lanning was a student of Herbert E. Bolton, a leading figure in U.S. borderlands history at University of California, Berkeley; and Lanning's early publications were on Southeast borderlands history, both monographs and edited historical texts. He began pursuing Spanish American intellectual history when he held a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1930. As editor of The Hispanic American Historical Review, he expanded the circulation of the journal arranging with the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (and later the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by giving gratis copies to scholars in Latin America.