Carl L. Becker Biography

Carl Becker is often listed among the proponents of the “New History” in the early part of the century. He studied under two of its principal proponents, as an undergraduate with Frederick Jackson Turner at Wisconsin before moving on to Columbia to complete his PhD under James Harvey Robinson. However, his work is best remembered for the stark pragmatism (many prefer to label it “relativism”) that is reflected in the latter part of his presidential address. Becker’s presidential address is the most frequently cited by his successors, though it is often put to widely varying uses—some to encourage a better connection to the public, others to encourage greater modesty in interpretation. At the time of his presidency, Becker was a professor of history at Cornell University. His publications included The Declaration of Independence (1922), Progress and Power (2nd ed., 1949), and The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (11th ed., 1955).


Beginnings of the American people, by Carl Lotus Becker. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915.

The United States; an experiment in democracy, by Carl Becker. New York and London: Harper, 1920; Reprint with a new introduction by Michael G. Kammen. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2001.

The Declaration of independence, a study in the history of political ideas, by Carl Becker. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1922; Reprint, Birmingham, Ala.: Palladium Press, 2002.

The struggle for independence. Part 1: The eve of the revolution, by Carl Becker. Part 2: Washington and his comrades in arms, by George M. Wrong. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1926.

The spirit of '76 and other essays, by Carl Becker, J. M. Clark, William E. Dodd. Washington: Robert Brookings graduate school of economics and government, 1927.

The heavenly city of the eighteenth century philosophers, by Carl L. Becker. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932; Reprint, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Modern history; the rise of a democratic, scientific, and industrialized civilization, by Carl L. Becker. New York: Silver Burdett, 1933.

Everyman his own historian; essays on history and politics, by Carl L. Becker. New York: F. S. Crofts, 1935.

The world of today: how national and international difficulties endanger the peace of the world, by Carl Becker. New York: Silver Burdett., c1938.

Story of civilization, showing how, from earliest times, men have increased their knowledge and mastery of the world, and thereby changed their ways in living in it, by Carl L. Becker and Frederic Duncalf. New York: Silver Burdett, 1940.

How new will the better world be? A discussion of post-war reconstruction, by Carl L. Becker. 1st ed. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1944.

Safeguarding civil liberty today; the Edward L. Bernays lectures of 1944 given at Cornell university by Carl L. Becker [and others] and an address by Edmund Ezra Day. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1945.

Progress and power. Introduction by Leo Gershoy. 1st Borzoi ed. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1949.

"What is the good of history?" Selected letters of Carl L. Becker, 1900-1945, edited with an introd. by Michael Kammen. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1973.

The eve of the revolution: a chronicle of the breach with England, by Carl Becker. Toronto: Glasgow, Brook; New York: United States Publishers Association, 1977.

Freedom and responsibility in the American way of life: five lectures delivered on the William W. Cook Foundation at the University of Michigan, December 1944, by Carl L. Becker; with an introductory essay by George H. Sabine. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980.