Herbert L. Osgood

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Herbert Levi Osgood (1855–1918) was an American historian of colonial American history. As a professor at Columbia University he directed numerous dissertations of scholars who became major historians. Osgood was a leader of the "Imperial historians" who studied, and often praised, the inner workings of the British Empire in the 18th century.

Biography[edit]

Osgood was born in Maine, and attended Amherst College, from which he graduated in 1877, having studied under John W. Burgess. He attended graduate school at Amherst and Yale, and spent a year in Berlin, before returning to the United States to teach at Brooklyn High School and resume graduate studies at Columbia under Burgess, who had recently moved there. Osgood received his doctorate from Columbia, and then went to London to study documents relating to colonial America in the archives of the British Museum and the Public Record Office. Returning to the United States once more, he served as an assistant to Burgess for six years. In 1896, Osgood was appointed professor, in which position he remained until his death.

His son-in-law, Dixon Ryan Fox, was also a historian, as well as author of a biography of Osgood, Herbert Levi Osgood, an American scholar (1924).

Scholarly work[edit]

Osgood wrote extensively on colonial American history, and his work is characterized by frequent and detailed analysis of primary sources. His work is descriptive, aimed as a careful analysis of the source material for the consumption of other historians, with little narrative running through it. In this he contrasts with Edward Channing, who wrote more popularly accessible works, but based them more on a synthesis of secondary sources. Osgood was an admirer of Leopold von Ranke, and his style is sometimes compared with the latter's. Along with Charles McLean Andrews and other Imperial School historians, he took a view of the colonial period that focused on its imperial ties with Great Britain.

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