University of Pennsylvania

From the 2017 Award for Scholarly Distinction citation in the 2018 Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony booklet

Richard S. Dunn, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, has been one of the most productive and innovative scholars and editors in the field of early American history throughout his long career. As an administrator, he has advanced the study of the field through his founding and leadership of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies (originally the Philadelphia Center) at the university.

Dunn received his PhD in 1955 from Princeton, having previously studied at Harvard. After teaching first at the University of Michigan, he moved to Penn, where he has stayed for the remainder of his career. He is known for his work on the Winthrop family of New England, in both Puritans and Yankees: The Winthrop Dynasty of New England, 1630–1717 (1962) and his essential, definitive edition of The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630–1649 (1996), with Laetitia Yeandle. With his late wife, Mary Maples Dunn, and others, he also edited the multi-volume Papers of William Penn (1981–87).

He was an early practitioner of and contributor to the now-burgeoning field of Atlantic history through his Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624–1713 (1972), detailing the development and distinctive experiences of the settlers and slaves on different Caribbean islands. Dunn has now attained new heights with the publication of A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia (2014), a magisterial comparative study of 2,000 enslaved people over many decades in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The project encompasses an interactive website containing details about 431 individuals in seven multi-generational families so that students and scholars can reap further benefits from analyses of his extraordinary effort in data gathering.

Richard Dunn passed away January 24, 2022.