AHA President, 1947


Princeton University

From the American Historical Review 71:4 (July 1966)

Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker (February 6, 1879–April 22, 1966), Edwards Professor of History, emeritus, at Princeton University, died April 22. He was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1879 and received both his BA and PhD from the University of Virginia. Called to Princeton by Woodrow Wilson in 1910, he remained a member of the Princeton faculty until his retirement in 1947 and served from 1928 to 1936 as chairman of the history department. He was named twice to the Harmsworth Professorship of American History at Oxford, 1939–1940 and 1944–1945, and was president of the American Historical Association in 1947. He was one of the outstanding scholars in the field of early American history. His books on colonial Virginia—Patrician and Plebeian in Virginia, Virginia under the Stuarts, and Planters of Colonial Virginia—challenged many accepted ideas about the early history of the colony and provided a solid foundation for the work of other scholars. In his three volumes on the Founding of American Civilization he studied the social and cultural history of the middle, southern, and New England colonies. These books gave a powerful impetus toward modifying the emphasis on political and economic history that had characterized earlier work in his field. Among his many other books were a history of Norfolk, a history of Princeton, and a monograph on Bacon’s Rebellion. His scholarship attracted many students to his graduate seminar; his lucidity of expression and his ready wit made him a popular undergraduate teacher. His kindness and encouragement persuaded many young men to enter our profession and to persevere in their work after early discouragements. His interests were broad: he was a newspaper editor, an expert on bridge, and a notable amateur architect as well as a historian. In this versatility he was a worthy representative of his beloved golden age of Virginia.



Virginia under the Stuarts, 1607–1688, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1914.

The American people; a history, by Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1926.

The first Americans, 1607-1690, by Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker. New York: Macmillan, 1927; Reprint, St. Clair Shores, Mich.: Scholarly Press, 1977.

Norfolk; historic southern port, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1931.

Labor costs and American democracy, by Professor Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker. Princeton: Pub. under the University Extension Fund, Herbert L. Baker Foundation, Princeton University, 1938.

A stock-taking of America, 1687–1941, by Dr. Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941.

The golden age of colonial culture, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker. New York: New York University Press; London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1942; Reprint, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980.

The Puritan oligarchy; the founding of American civilization. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1947; Reprint, New York: Scribner, 1970.

Father Knickerbocker rebels: New York City during the Revolution. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1948.

Give me liberty: the struggle for self-government in Virginia. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1958.

The planters of colonial Virginia. New York: Russell & Russell, 1959.

Princeton, 1746–1896. Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker; with a new preface by John M. Murrin. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.