The Info List - Merle Curti

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Merle Eugene Curti (September 15, 1897 – March 9, 1996) was a leading American historian, who taught many graduate students at Columbia University
Columbia University
and the University of Wisconsin, and was a leader in developing the fields of social history and intellectual history. He directed 86 finished Ph.D. dissertations and had an unusually wide range of correspondents. As a Progressive historian he was deeply committed to democracy, and to the Turnerian thesis that social and economic forces shape American life, thought and character. He was a pioneer in peace studies, intellectual history, and social history, and helped develop quantitative methods based on census samples as a tool in historical research.


1 Life 2 Academic career

2.1 Peace studies 2.2 Intellectual history 2.3 New social history 2.4 Teaching

3 Memberships, awards and honors 4 Selected works 5 References 6 Further reading 7 External links

Life[edit] Curti was born in Papillion, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha, on September 15, 1897. His parents were John Eugene Curti, an immigrant from Switzerland, and Alice Hunt, a Yankee
from Vermont. Curti attended high school in Omaha
then obtained a bachelor's degree in 1920 from Harvard University, graduating summa cum laude. He then spent a year studying in France
where he met Margaret Wooster, 1898–1963, who had a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
and was a pioneer in research on child psychology.[1] They married in 1925 and had two daughters. Curti received his Ph.D. in 1927 from Harvard as one of the last students of Frederick Jackson Turner. Curti taught at Beloit College, Smith College, and Columbia University, then in 1942 he joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, where he taught for 25 years. He also taught in Japan, Australia, and India, and lectured throughout Europe. Academic career[edit] While at Smith College, Curti published his first book, The American Peace Crusade, 1815–1860 (1929). The book, based on his dissertation, was written after Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. (who had replaced Turner at Harvard) rejected his first dissertation proposal which was essentially an early version of The Growth of American Thought. Peace studies[edit] Moving to Teachers College
Teachers College
at Columbia in 1931, he published a book on William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan
and world peace (Bryan and World Peace). It was followed by Peace or War: The American Struggle in 1936. With these works, Curti helped found peace and conflict studies as a field of study. He criticized pacifists for ignoring major social changes—especially the repudiation of old-fashioned competitive capitalism by the New Deal, and the need to repudiate imperial greed if peace were to be achieved. In 1964 he helped found the Conference on Peace Research in History, now called the Peace History Society. The Roots of American Loyalty (1946) was a history of patriotism. Curti developed his global vision through travels; he taught in Japan, Australia
and India
for two years. He left the Episcopal faith of his boyhood for Unitarianism. Although never a Marxist, he voted for Socialist presidential candidates in the name of world peace. Intellectual history[edit] Curti turned his attention to intellectual history, and helped to establish that field as a distinct academic discipline. His first foray in the field was The Social Ideals of American Educators, published in 1935. In 1944, Curti won the Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
in history for his masterwork, The Growth of American Thought. Its chapters show an encyclopedic knowledge of thinkers great and small from the colonial period to the present, together with his commitment to democracy as a process springing from the ideas of the people. Curti adapted Turner's frontier thesis to intellectual history, arguing, "Because the American environment, physical and social, differed from that of Europe, Americans, confronted by different needs and problems, adapted the European intellectual heritage in their own way. And because American life came increasingly to differ from European life, American ideas, American agencies of intellectual life, and the use made of knowledge likewise came to differ in America from their European counterparts." (p vi) Unlike some of the other leaders of the American Studies program, he paid little attention to myths and symbols. Unlike Perry Miller at Harvard, who strongly influenced a new generation of intellectual historians, Curti never delved too deeply into the internal history of ideas, preferring to link them to multiple external social and economic factors. His book was not so much a history of American thought as a social history of American thought, with strong attention to the social and economic forces that shaped that thought from the bottom up. New social history[edit] In the 1950s Curti undertook a collaborative social history of rural Trempealeau County, Wisconsin
Trempealeau County, Wisconsin
using avant-garde quantitative analysis of census records. The book which came out of the project, The Making of an American Community: A Case Study of Democracy in a Frontier County (1959) immediately became a pioneer work in what would soon be dubbed the "new social history." Curti's wife Margaret Wooster Curti, provided some of the quantitative methodology. Historians, however, did not emulate it, preferring instead to follow Stephan Thernstrom's model in Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a Nineteenth-Century American City (1964), which used a similar methodology of tracking workers through their careers using censuses and city directories. The difference was urban and rural—urban history was exploding and rural history was a backwater; in addition the Thernstrom model was easier to replicate by a graduate student writing a Ph.D. thesis alone (Curti had numerous research assistants and coauthors). Whereas the "old" social history comprised descriptions of everyday lifestyles, perhaps with a coverage of grass roots political movements (like the Populists), Curti's "new" social history was a systematic examination of the entire population using statistics and social science methodologies. Teaching[edit] In 1942 Curti was called to the Frederick Jackson Turner Professorship of History at the University of Wisconsin, one of the nation's most influential centers of historical scholarship; he retired from the department in 1968. Curti continued to write after retirement, keeping up-to-date his influential textbook Rise of the American Nation[2] (1st ed. 1950), coauthored with Lewis Todd, which went through many editions after their deaths. The Wisconsin department of history was notorious for the angry feuds among the senior professors, which Curti, mild-mannered and small of stature, completely ignored.[citation needed] Curti supervised 86 finished doctoral dissertations at Columbia and Wisconsin, including many who became well-known scholars: Richard Hofstadter
Richard Hofstadter
on social Darwinism; John Higham on nativism; Bourke on community studies; Allen Davis on Progressivism and Jane Addams; and Roderick Nash on the environment. Curti allowed his students a free hand in content and methodology. He encouraged his students constantly, wrote highly detailed critiques of their chapters, protected them from intradepartmental feuds, helped them get funding, and found them jobs through the "old boys" network of which he was an accomplished maestro, writing hundreds of letters a month to friends and ex-students across the globe.[3] Memberships, awards and honors[edit] Curti won the Pulitzer Prize for History
Pulitzer Prize for History
in 1944 for The Growth of American Thought (1943). He was president of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association (now the Organization of American Historians) in 1952 and the American Historical Association in 1954. He was a co-founder of the American Studies Association. He served as the organization's vice-president in 1954 and 1955, and was asked to serve as president in 1956, but he declined the honor because he was going to be out of the country. Curti was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. In 1977 the Organization of American Historians
Organization of American Historians
established the Merle Curti Award, which is given annually for the best book in social, intellectual, and/or cultural history. (In some years, the organization has awarded two prizes, one in social and/or cultural history and one in intellectual and/or cultural history.) Selected works[edit]

The American Peace Crusade, 1815–1860 (1929) [4] "Non-Resistance in New England," The New England Quarterly Vol. 2, No. 1 (Jan., 1929), pp. 34–57 in JSTOR Bryan and World Peace. Northampton, Mass.: Smith College
Smith College
Studies in History, (1931).[5] "Robert Rantoul, Jr., The Reformer in Politics," The New England Quarterly Vol. 5, No. 2 (Apr., 1932), pp. 264–280 in JSTOR The Social ideas of American Educators (1932, expanded ed. 1959)[6] Peace or War: The American Struggle, 1636–1936 (1936).[7][8] "The Great Mr. Locke: America's Philosopher, 1783-1861," The Huntington Library Bulletin No. 11 (Apr., 1937), pp. 107–151 JSTOR 3818115 "Public Opinion and the Study of History," The Public Opinion Quarterly Vol. 1, No. 2 (Apr., 1937), pp. 84–87 in JSTOR "Francis Lieber and Nationalism," The Huntington Library Quarterly Vol. 4, No. 3 (Apr., 1941), pp. 263–292 in JSTOR "The American Scholar in Three Wars," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Jun., 1942), pp. 241–264 in JSTOR The Growth of American Thought. (1943, 1951), 912 pp.[9] The University of Wisconsin A History 1848–1945 (3 vols., 1949–94), with Vernon Rosco Carstenson, Edmund David Cronon, and John William Jenkins.[10][11] The Roots of American Loyalty (1946) [12] "The Reputation of America Overseas (1776–1860)," American Quarterly Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring, 1949), pp. 58–82 in JSTOR "America at the World Fairs, 1851-1893," The American Historical Review Vol. 55, No. 4 (Jul., 1950), pp. 833–856 in JSTOR "The Immigrant and the American Image in Europe, 1860-1914," with Kendall Birr; The Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol. 37, No. 2 (Sep., 1950), pp. 203–230 in JSTOR "The Democratic Theme in American Historical Literature," The Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol. 39, No. 1 (Jun., 1952), pp. 3–28, presidential address; in JSTOR "'The Flowery Flag Devils': The American Image in China 1840-1900." with John Stalker; Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Vol. 96, No. 6 (Dec., 1952), pp. 663–690 in JSTOR "Human Nature in American Thought," Political Science Quarterly Vol. 68, No. 3 (Sep., 1953), pp. 354–375 in JSTOR "Human Nature in American Thought: Retreat from Reason in the Age of Science," Political Science Quarterly Vol. 68, No. 4 (Dec., 1953), pp. 492–510 in JSTOR "Intellectuals and Other People," The American Historical Review Vol. 60, No. 2 (Jan., 1955), pp. 259–282, presidential address in JSTOR "Woodrow Wilson's Concept of Human Nature," Midwest Journal of Political Science Vol. 1, No. 1 (May, 1957), pp. 1–19 in JSTOR "American Philanthropy and the National Character," American Quarterly Vol. 10, No. 4 (Winter, 1958), pp. 420–437 in JSTOR The Making of an American Community: A Case Study of Democracy in a Frontier County. (1959). "Tradition and Innovation in American Philanthropy," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
American Philosophical Society
Vol. 105, No. 2 (Apr., 1961), pp. 146–156 in JSTOR " Jane Addams
Jane Addams
on Human Nature," Journal of the History of Ideas Vol. 22, No. 2 (Apr., 1961), pp. 240–253 in JSTOR "The Changing Concept of "Human Nature" in the Literature of American Advertising," The Business History Review Vol. 41, No. 4 (Winter, 1967), pp. 335-357, illustrated; in JSTOR Human Nature in American Thought: A History (1980)[13] American Philanthropy Abroad (Jan. 1, 1988)[14] Rise of the American Nation, textbook coauthored with Lewis Paul Todd (1950–82); many editions.[15]


^ See Margaret Wooster Curti Papers , 1898–1963 ^ Leahey, Christopher R. (2010-01-01). Whitewashing War: Historical Myth, Corporate Textbooks, and Possibilities for Democratic Education. Teachers College
Teachers College
Press. ISBN 978-0-8077-5043-8.  ^ Lillibridge, 1996 ^ "The American Peace Crusade, 1815–1860 – 1929, Page iii by Merle Eugene Curti. Online Research Library: Questia". www.questia.com. Retrieved 2016-03-25.  ^ Curti, Merle Eugene (1931-01-01). Bryan and World Peace. Department of history of Smith college.  ^ Curti, Merle Eugene (1935-01-01). The Social Ideas of American Educators. C. Scribner's Sons.  ^ Curti, Merle (2007-03-01). Peace Or War the American Struggle 1636–1936. Read Books. ISBN 978-1-4067-4407-1.  ^ Curti, Merle (2007-03-15). Peace Or War The American Struggle 1636–1936. LaVergne, TN: Angell Press. ISBN 978-1-4067-4407-1.  ^ "The Growth of American Thought – 2nd Edition by Merle Curti, 1951 Online Research Library: Questia". www.questia.com. Retrieved 2016-03-25.  ^ Curti, Merle; Curti, Merle Eugene; Carstensen, Vernon (1949-01-01). The University of Wisconsin: A History. Univ of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-80572-2.  ^ Curti, Merle Eugene; Cronon, Edmund David; Jenkins, John William (1994-10-01). The University of Wisconsin: A History : Politics, Depression, and War, 1925–1945. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-14430-2.  ^ "The Roots of American Loyalty by Merle Curti, 1946 Online Research Library: Questia". www.questia.com. Retrieved 2016-03-25.  ^ Curti, Merle Eugene (1980-01-01). Human Nature in American Thought: A History. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-07970-3.  ^ Curti, Merle (1988-01-01). American Philanthropy Abroad. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4128-1701-1.  ^ Rise of the American Nation (Heritage ed.). Harcourt College Pub. 1977-06-01. ISBN 978-0-15-376042-6. 

This article incorporates material from the Citizendium
article "Merle Curti", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL. Further reading[edit]

Conkin, Paul K. "Merle Curti." in Clio's Favorites: Leading Historians of the United States, 1945–2000. ed. by Robert Allen Rutland, (2000). ISBN 0-8262-1316-2 online edition Cronon, E. David. "Merle Curti: an Appraisal and Bibliography of His Writings". Wisconsin Magazine of History 54(2)(Winter 1970–1971): 119-135. Davis, Allen F. "Memorial to Merle E. Curti." American Studies Association Newsletter. June 1996. Henretta, James A. "The Making of an American Community: a Thirty-year Retrospective." Reviews in American History 1988 16(3): 506-512. in Jstor Lillibridge, G. D. "So Long, Maestro: A Portrait of Merle Curti." American Scholar. Volume: 66. Issue: 2. (Spring 1997). pp 263+. online edition Novick, Peter. That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession. (1988). ISBN 0-521-35745-4 Pettegrew, John. "The Present-minded Professor: Merle Curti's Work as an Intellectual Historian." History Teacher 1998 32(1): 67-76. ISSN 0018-2745 Fulltext: in Jstor Wittner, Lawrence S. " Merle Curti and the Development of Peace History." Peace & Change 1998 23(1): 74-82. ISSN 0149-0508 Fulltext: Ebsco

External links[edit]

Merle Curti Award, Organization of American Historians

v t e

Presidents of the American Historical Association


Andrew Dickson White
Andrew Dickson White
(1884-85) George Bancroft
George Bancroft
(1886) Justin Winsor
Justin Winsor
(1887) William Frederick Poole
William Frederick Poole
(1888) Charles Kendall Adams
Charles Kendall Adams
(1889) John Jay (1890) William Wirt Henry (1891) James Burrill Angell
James Burrill Angell
(1892-93) Henry Adams
Henry Adams
(1893-94) George Frisbie Hoar
George Frisbie Hoar
(1895) Richard Salter Storrs
Richard Salter Storrs
(1896) James Schouler (1897) George Park Fisher (1898) James Ford Rhodes
James Ford Rhodes
(1899) Edward Eggleston
Edward Eggleston


Charles Francis Adams Jr.
Charles Francis Adams Jr.
(1901) Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan
(1902) Henry Charles Lea
Henry Charles Lea
(1903) Goldwin Smith
Goldwin Smith
(1904) John Bach McMaster
John Bach McMaster
(1905) Simeon Eben Baldwin
Simeon Eben Baldwin
(1906) J. Franklin Jameson (1907) George Burton Adams (1908) Albert Bushnell Hart
Albert Bushnell Hart
(1909) Frederick Jackson Turner (1910) William Milligan Sloane
William Milligan Sloane
(1911) Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
(1912) William Archibald Dunning (1913) Andrew C. McLaughlin
Andrew C. McLaughlin
(1914) H. Morse Stephens
H. Morse Stephens
(1915) George Lincoln Burr
George Lincoln Burr
(1916) Worthington C. Ford (1917) William Roscoe Thayer
William Roscoe Thayer
(1918-19) Edward Channing (1920) Jean Jules Jusserand
Jean Jules Jusserand
(1921) Charles Homer Haskins
Charles Homer Haskins
(1922) Edward Potts Cheyney
Edward Potts Cheyney
(1923) Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
(1924) Charles McLean Andrews
Charles McLean Andrews


Dana Carleton Munro
Dana Carleton Munro
(1926) Henry Osborn Taylor (1927) James Henry Breasted
James Henry Breasted
(1928) James Harvey Robinson
James Harvey Robinson
(1929) Evarts Boutell Greene (1930) Carl L. Becker (1931) Herbert Eugene Bolton
Herbert Eugene Bolton
(1932) Charles A. Beard
Charles A. Beard
(1933) William Dodd (1934) Michael Rostovtzeff
Michael Rostovtzeff
(1935) Charles Howard McIlwain (1936) Guy Stanton Ford (1937) Laurence M. Larson (1938) William Scott Ferguson (1939) Max Farrand
Max Farrand
(1940) James Westfall Thompson (1941) Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. (1942) Nellie Neilson (1943) William Linn Westermann
William Linn Westermann
(1944) Carlton J. H. Hayes (1945) Sidney Bradshaw Fay (1946) Thomas J. Wertenbaker
Thomas J. Wertenbaker
(1947) Kenneth Scott Latourette
Kenneth Scott Latourette
(1948) Conyers Read (1949) Samuel Eliot Morison
Samuel Eliot Morison


Robert Livingston Schuyler (1951) James G. Randall (1952) Louis R. Gottschalk (1953) Merle Curti (1954) Lynn Thorndike
Lynn Thorndike
(1955) Dexter Perkins (1956) William L. Langer (1957) Walter Prescott Webb
Walter Prescott Webb
(1958) Allan Nevins
Allan Nevins
(1959) Bernadotte Everly Schmitt (1960) Samuel Flagg Bemis (1961) Carl Bridenbaugh (1962) Crane Brinton (1963) Julian P. Boyd (1964) Frederic C. Lane (1965) Roy Franklin Nichols (1966) Hajo Holborn (1967) John K. Fairbank (1968) C. Vann Woodward
C. Vann Woodward
(1969) Robert Roswell Palmer (1970) David M. Potter (1971) Joseph Strayer (1971) Thomas C. Cochran (1972) Lynn Townsend White Jr. (1973) Lewis Hanke (1974) Gordon Wright (1975)


Richard B. Morris (1976) Charles Gibson (1977) William J. Bouwsma (1978) John Hope Franklin (1979) David H. Pinkney (1980) Bernard Bailyn (1981) Gordon A. Craig
Gordon A. Craig
(1982) Philip D. Curtin (1983) Arthur S. Link (1984) William H. McNeill (1985) Carl Neumann Degler (1986) Natalie Zemon Davis
Natalie Zemon Davis
(1987) Akira Iriye (1988) Louis R. Harlan (1989) David Herlihy (1990) William Leuchtenburg (1991) Frederic Wakeman (1992) Louise A. Tilly (1993) Thomas C. Holt (1994) John Henry Coatsworth (1995) Caroline Bynum (1996) Joyce Appleby (1997) Joseph C. Miller (1998) Robert Darnton
Robert Darnton
(1999) Eric Foner
Eric Foner


William Roger Louis (2001) Lynn Hunt (2002) James M. McPherson
James M. McPherson
(2003) Jonathan Spence (2004) James J. Sheehan
James J. Sheehan
(2005) Linda K. Kerber (2006) Barbara Weinstein (2007) Gabrielle M. Spiegel (2008) Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
(2009) Barbara D. Metcalf (2010) Anthony Grafton
Anthony Grafton
(2011) William Cronon
William Cronon
(2012) Kenneth Pomeranz
Kenneth Pomeranz
(2013) Jan E. Goldstein (2014) Vicki L. Ruiz (2015) Patrick Manning (2016) Tyler E. Stovall (2017) Mary Beth Norton (2018)

v t e

Pulitzer Prize for History
Pulitzer Prize for History

Edward Channing (1926) Samuel Flagg Bemis (1927) Vernon Louis Parrington
Vernon Louis Parrington
(1928) Fred Albert Shannon (1929) Claude H. Van Tyne (1930) Bernadotte E. Schmitt (1931) John J. Pershing
John J. Pershing
(1932) Frederick J. Turner (1933) Herbert Agar (1934) Charles McLean Andrews
Charles McLean Andrews
(1935) Andrew C. McLaughlin
Andrew C. McLaughlin
(1936) Van Wyck Brooks
Van Wyck Brooks
(1937) Paul Herman Buck (1938) Frank Luther Mott (1939) Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg
(1940) Marcus Lee Hansen (1941) Margaret Leech (1942) Esther Forbes (1943) Merle Curti (1944) Stephen Bonsal
Stephen Bonsal
(1945) Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
(1946) James Phinney Baxter III (1947) Bernard DeVoto
Bernard DeVoto
(1948) Roy Franklin Nichols (1949) Oliver W. Larkin (1950)

Complete list (1917–1925) (1926–1950) (1951–1975) (1976–2000) (2001–2025)

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 71752241 LCCN: n79114069 ISNI: 0000 0001 0914 6004 GND: 10104433X SELIBR: 182632 SUDOC: 060390638 BIBSYS: 90237544 MGP: 213834 NLA: 36537510 NDL: 00520981 NKC: jx20121004