Position

AHA President, 1899

Institution

Author

From the American Historical Review 32:3 (April 1927)

James Ford Rhodes (May 1, 1848–January 22, 1927), president of the American Historical Association in 1899, died on January 22, aged seventy-eight. Occupied with manufacturing business during his early life, he turned from this, when nearly forty, to the writing of history, having resolved to write an extensive work on the history of the United States in the extraordinary period of Civil War and Reconstruction. Without great technical training in the historian’s art, he brought to its exercise abundant experience of practical life, and a solid determination to be thorough, to be open-minded, and to be just. No one was ever more candid in intention, more desirous to tell the truth. He had moreover many contacts with men prominent in public life, of the period he treated, and was framed by nature to draw profit from their converse. “No one”, wrote John Hay, apparently in a letter to Mr. Rhodes, “can be a great historian who is not a good fellow”; Rhodes was eminently sociable, genial without loss of dignity, generous, and of transparent integrity. The fruits of his thorough research in the most varied materials, and of his insight into public affairs, were laid before the world in the years from 1892 to 1906, in the seven volumes of his History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the Final Restoration of Home Rule at the South in 1877. That work has long since won its place as the standard history of a great period in the development of the United States and of a struggle having momentous consequences for the whole world. Limited in the main to political and military history, and marked by no great charm of literary style, beyond the attractive power of a manly simplicity, it won its classical position by the solid merits of careful research and of fairness in a field where fairness had long been difficult. Two later volumes, a History of the United States from Hayes to McKinley (1919) and The McKinley and Roosevelt Administrations (1922), though less careful and thorough in construction, contain much excellent material, and reveal more fully the writer’s nearness to public life and the friendly and unpretending personality of the man.

 

Bibliography

History of the United States from the compromise of 1850. By James Ford Rhodes. New York, Harper, 1895.

History of the United States from the compromise of 1850 to the final restoration of home rule at the South in 1877. New York, London, The Macmillan company, 1909-19.

History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the McKinley Bryan campaign of 1896. 8 vols. Port Washington, N.Y., Kennikat Press, 1967.

Historical essays, by James Ford Rhodes. New York, The Macmillan Company, 1909.

The McKinley and Roosevelt administrations, 1897–1909. By James Ford Rhodes New York, The Macmillan Company, 1922.

History of the civil war, 1861–1865: New York, The Macmillan company, 1937.

History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. By James Ford Rhodes; edited, with an introduction, by E.B. Long ; introduction to the Dover edition by John Herbert Roper Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1999.

The barber and the historian: the correspondence of George A. Myers and James Ford Rhodes, 1910–1920. Edited by John A. Garraty. Columbus: Ohio Historical Society, 1956.