Publication Date

May 1, 1993

Lewis Ulysses Hanke, 88, died Friday, March 26, at the Amherst Nursing Home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Hanke was professor emeritus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst Elected president of the American Historical Association in 1974, he was the first Latin Americanist to hold that position.

He was born January 2, 1905, in Oregon City, Oregon, the son of William and Mamie (Stevenson) Hanke, and graduated with a masters degree from Northwestern University. He was an instructor at the University of Hawaii from 1926-27, after which he served three years as an assistant professor of history at the University of Beirut in Lebanon. After two years of research in the colonial archives of Spain during the early 1930s, he returned to the United States and received a Ph.D. in history from Harvard in 1936. In 1939 he became the first director of the Hispanic Foundation of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In 1951 he moved to the University of Texas at Austin as director of the Institute of Latin American Studies and professor of Latin American history, and later taught at Columbia University and the University of California at Irvine before going to Amherst in 1969. Over the years, he trained scores of Latin American historians, many of them now prominent scholars in their own right. He retired from the University of Massachusetts in 1975.

Dr. Hanke was a prolific writer on colonial Latin American history, best known for his work on the life and writings of Fray Bartolome de las Casas, a Spanish priest in the Dominican order who became the Bishop of Chiapas and came to be known as the Defender of the Indians during the early years of the colonial period. In 1935, while at Harvard, he published The First Social Experiments in America: A Study of the Development of Spanish Indian Policy in the Sixteenth Century. Two other books were The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America (1949) and Aristotle and the American Indians (1959). He later wrote a three-volume history of Potosi, the silver-mining city in Bolivia, and a fourteen-volume guide to materials in Spanish archives on the Spanish colonial viceroys to 1700. In 1985 he published a five-volume Guide to the Study of United States History Outside the U.S., 1945-1980.

Dr. Hanke was a member of the U.S. delegation at the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 and a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) during the 1950s.

While at Harvard he was a founder and served as first editor of the Handbook of Latin American Studies, which recently published its fiftieth anniversary issue. He was also an editor of the Hispanic American Historical Review.

Professor Hanke received the Order of the Condor of the Andes from the Bolivian government and was declared an honorary citizen of Potosi, Bolivia, in 1965. He was a member of the Royal Academy of History of Spain and corresponding member of the Royal Historical Society in London. He received honorary degrees from the University of Bahia, Brazil, the Tomas Frias University of Potosi, Bolivia, and the University of Sevilla, Spain. He received the Kalman Silvert Award in 1989 from the Latin American Studies Association. In 1992 he received the Antonio de Nebrija-Fifth Centenary Special Prize from the University of Salamanca, Spain, on the 500th anniversary of the compilation of the first Spanish grammar.

He is survived by two sons, Jonathan, of Amherst, and Peter, of Austin, Texas; two daughters, Susan Abouhalkah, of Houston, Texas, and Joanne Schwarz, of Bethesda, Maryland; thirteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren; and a sister, Genevra McDonald, of Presque Isle, Maine. His wife, Kate Gilbert Hanke, died March 18.

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