AHA President, 1946


Radcliffe College and Harvard University

From the American Historical Review 73:2 (December 1967)

Sidney Bradshaw Fay (April 13, 1876–August 29, 1967), a life member of the Association since 1925 and its President in 1946, died August 29, at the age of ninety-one. His death came after a short illness that involved surgery. Although he had long suffered from failing eyesight, his mind remained clear until the end. Indeed, he retained a lively interest in all professional matters and delighted in reviews and discussions of new ideas and publications. Following his graduation from Harvard College in 1896, Fay spent two years in travel and study in Europe, during which he heard the lectures of the great in both Paris and Berlin. After completing graduate work at Harvard (1900), he divided his professional career rather evenly between Dartmouth (1902–1914), Smith (1914–1929), and Radcliffe and Harvard (1929–1946), where he was the first scholar to hold a joint appointment. Throughout his life he was a devoted teacher, genuinely interested in his students and generous in the time he allotted to their problems.

His significant contributions to the history and institutions of the Prussian monarchy reflected his lifelong devotion to the field of German history. He was also one of the four editors of the Guide to Historical Literature (1931), but he will be best remembered for his pioneer explorations of the documents dealing with the First World War. Beginning with his arresting analysis of the Kautsky documents in the American Historical Review (July, Oct. 1920; Jan. 1921), he became deeply engrossed in the problems of prewar diplomacy and in 1928 published his well-known two-volume study Origins of the World War. The fair-mindedness and objectivity of this book won him immediate world-wide recognition. It was translated into several European languages, including Russian, and even today holds its own as the best and most readable general account of prewar diplomacy.

Fay was a member of many scholarly organizations, including the Massachusetts Historical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Royal Historical Society. He held honorary degrees from Smith College (LHD, 1929) and from Columbia (LittD, 1940). Though he had long been in retirement, Sidney Fay will be mourned by many who knew him as a thorough and judicious scholar, and as a warmhearted, lovable friend.



The Hohenzollern household and administration in the sixteenth century, by Sidney Bradshaw Fay. Northampton, Mass.: Dept. of History, Smith College, 1916.

The origins of the World War, by Sidney Bradshaw Fay. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1928; 2d ed., rev. New York: Free Press, 1966.

The rise of Brandenburg-Prussia to 1786, by Sidney Bradshaw Fay. New York: H. Holt, 1937; Reprint, Malabar, Fla.: R.E. Krieger Pub. Co., 1981.

A guide to historical literature, edited by George Matthew Dutcher, Henry Robinson Shipman, Sidney Bradshaw Fay, Augustus Hunt Shearer, William Henry Allison. New York: Macmillan, 1937.

Germany: revised and edited from the work of Bayard Taylor, by Sidney B. Fay. “Memorial edition.” New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1939.