AHA President, 1913


Columbia University

From the American Historical Review 28:1 (October 1922)

William A. Dunning (May 12, 1857–August 25, 1922). We have with great regret to record the death of William Archibald Dunning, professor of history and political philosophy in Columbia University, who died in New York on August 25, aged 65. A graduate of Columbia (AB 1881, PhD 1885), he began teaching in that university in 1886, and was a professor in it—and an exceptionally useful one—from 1891 till his death. As a member of the Executive Council of the American Historical Association, 1892–1902, and chairman of its committee on publication, 1900–1910, he rendered most valuable services to the Association. He was its president in 1913. To this journal he was from the beginning a constant and helpful friend, though his relation to the Political Science Quarterly, of which he was managing editor from 1894 to 1903, prevented him from being a frequent contributor.

His chief published work was his History of Political Theories (1902, 1905, 1920), a masterly survey of the writers on political theory, from the Greeks to Spencer, marked by learning, insight, sound criticism, and clarity of thought and style. The other chief field of his interest was that of American history in the period indicated by the title of his Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction (1898); besides these essays in the constitutional history of that period, he published an admirable volume, Reconstruction, Political and Economic (1907), in the American Nation series, which showed more amply his gifts of style, in telling narrative and effective portrayal. With his keen powers of analysis and his humorous detachment from the ancient prejudices with which that portion of our history had been environed, he was able to view it with a wholesome freshness and to make its history a rational story. Similar qualities, with a freer hand, marked his book on The British Empire and the United States (1916). But that which after all gave most distinction to Professor Dunning’s career was his achievement as a teacher, for his work with graduate students resulted in what may fairly be called a school of younger investigators and writers on the history of the United States in the period of Civil War and Reconstruction, and a still larger host of students were bound· to him by ties of well-deserved affection. His lively wit and kindly disposition made him a most engaging companion, and he was a warm and genial friend.



Irish land legislation since 1845. By Prof. Wm. A. Dunning. New York: Ginn, 1892.

Essays on the civil war and reconstruction and related topics, by William Archibald Dunning. New York: Macmillan, 1898; Reprint, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971.

A history of political theories, ancient and mediaeval. New York, London: Macmillan, 1902.

The British Empire and the United States; a review of their relations during the century of peace following the treaty of Ghent, by William Archibald Dunning with an introduction by the Right Honourable Viscount Bryce, O.M., and a preface by Nicholas Murray Butler. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1914.

A history of political theories, from Rousseau to Spencer. New York: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1972.