Charles McLean Andrews

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Charles McLean Andrews Andrews.jpg
Born (1863-02-22)February 22, 1863
Wethersfield, CT, USA
Died September 9, 1943(1943-09-09) (aged 80)
New Haven, CT, USA
Occupation Historian
Nationality American
Period 1888 - 1937
Subjects American History, Colonial History

Charles McLean Andrews (February 22, 1863 – September 9, 1943) was one of the most distinguished American historians of his time as a leading authority on American colonial history.[1] He wrote 102 major books and scholarly articles, as well as over 360 book reviews newspaper articles and short items. [2] He is especially known as a leader of the "Imperial school" of historians who studied, and generally admired the efficiency of the British Empire in the 18th century. Kross argues:

His intangible legacy is twofold. First is his insistence that all history be based on facts and that the evidence be found, organized, and weighed. Second is his injunction that colonial America can never be understood without taking into account England.[3]

Life and recognition[edit]

Born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, he received his A.B. from Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., in 1884 and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1889. He was a professor at Bryn Mawr College (1889-1907) and Johns Hopkins University (1907-1910) before going to Yale University. He was the Farnam Professor of American History at Yale from 1910 to his retirement in 1931.[1]

He served as president of the American Historical Association in 1925. He held various memberships including the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Historical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Phi Beta Kappa. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1918.[4]

Andrews won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1935 for Volumes 1 & 4 of his work The Colonial Period of American History. He was awarded the gold medal, given once a decade, by the National Institute of Arts and Letters for his work in history, and he received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and Lehigh University.[1]

He married Evangline Holcombe Walker; their daughter Ethel married John Marshall Harlan II, who became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954.

Andrews died in New Haven, Connecticut.

Approach to history[edit]

His Yankee ancestors had been in Connecticut for seven generations, so his interest in American colonial history, including the history of Connecticut, is unsurprising (his first book, The River Towns of Connecticut, published in Baltimore in 1889, was about the settlement of Wethersfield, Hartford, and Windsor). Yet Andrews was not uncritical of early New England.[1]

Along with Herbert L. Osgood of Columbia University, Andrews led a new approach to American colonial history, which has been called the "imperial" interpretation. Andrews and Osgood emphasized the colonies' imperial ties to Great Britain. Rather than emphasizing conscious British tyranny leading up to the American Revolution, in works such as The Colonial Period (New York, 1912), he saw the clash as the inevitable result of the inability of British statesmen to understand the changes in society in America.[1]

Andrews' thorough research into archival sources, and a demonstration of scholarship through many books and articles, set a standard that led his colleagues to praise him as the "dean" of colonial historians.[5]


In 1924 he wrote:[1]

A nation's attitude toward its own history is like a window into its own soul and the men and women of such a nation cannot be expected to meet the great obligations of the present if they refuse to exhibit honesty, charity, open-mindedness, and a free and growing intelligence toward the past that has made them what they are.


  • Ideal Empires and Republics (1901) online
  • Colonial Self-Government (1904) online
  • The Colonial Period New York, 1912
  • Pilgrims and Puritans (1919) online
  • Colonial Folkways (1920) onlne
  • The Colonial Period of American History Yale UP: 1934-1937 (4 volumes), his masterpiece
  • The Colonial Background of the American Revolution New Haven, 1924
  • The Fathers of New England
  • Jonathan Dickinson's Journal, edited with Evangeline Walker Andrews


  1. ^ a b c d e f Roth, David M., editor, and Grenier, Judith Arnold, associate editor, "Connecticut History and Culture: An Historical overview and Resource Guide for Teachers", published by the Connecticut Historical Commission, 1985, chapter (unnumbered) titled "Connecticut 1865-1914 / Selected Persons and Events" written by David M. Roth, section titled "Charles McLean Andrews", pp 145-146
  2. ^ Kross, p 18
  3. ^ Kross, p 18
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Kross, p 9


  • Eisenstadt, Abraham S., Charles McLean Andrews (New York, 1956
  • Kross, Jessica. "Charles M. Andrews" in Clyde N. Wilson, ed. Twentieth-century American Historians (Gale Research Company, 1983) pp 9-19
  • Johnson, Richard R. "Charles McLean Andrews and the Invention of American Colonial History," William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Oct., 1986), pp. 520–541in JSTOR
  • Labaree, Leonard W., "Charles McLean Andrews: Historian, 1863-1943", the William and mary Quarterly, third Series, I (January 1944, pp 3–14)