Publication Date

May 1, 2011

Perspectives Section

In Memoriam

Historian of the French Revolution

John Philip Dawson III, professor emeritus of history at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, died in New York City on March 21, 2010. He was 81 years old.

The son of John Philip Dawson II, a prominent attorney, law professor, and author of numerous legal publications, he was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on November 28, 1928. Graduating from the University of Michigan in 1950 with an AB degree, he also took an AM in economics there the following year. Between 1952 and 1955, Dawson served as a reporter for the Washington Post. He then entered graduate school at Harvard University where he received his doctorate in 1961. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of Crane Brinton, was based on extensive research carried out in France with the aid of a Social Science Research Council fellowship. The dissertation was published in 1971 by Harvard University Press as Provincial Magistrates and Revolutionary Politics in France, 1789–95, part of its historical monograph series. Dawson’s thesis benefited substantially from the knowledge that be had gained from critiquing two volumes produced by his father, A History of Lay Judges (1960) andThe Oracles of the Law (1968).

Dawson began his professional career when be presented a paper on thebourgeoisie de robe in 1789 at the 1963 meeting of the society for French Historical Studies held at Harvard. A revised version would appear in French Historical Studies two years later. He further demonstrated his expertise when he prepared a volume of carefully translated and edited documents,The French Revolution, published by Prentice-Hall in 1967.

His teaching career started at Harvard where he served as an instructor from 1961 to 1964. He then accepted a position at Stanford University as an assistant professor, remaining there for nine years and rising to the rank of associate professor. In 1973 Dawson returned east to become a full professor at Brooklyn College and eventually retired as professor emeritus in 1998.

Dawson is survived by his wife Kathryn Callaghan, his son John Philip Dawson IV and daughter Liza Dawson, as well as four grandchildren.

A kind, gentle, soft-spoken, and good-humored individual, Phil Dawson was long dedicated to the cause of social justice, a reflection of his extensive work on the achievements of the French Revolution.

Montana State University Billings

James Friguglietti, Montana State University Billings

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