Lawrence H. Gipson

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Lawrence Henry Gipson (1880 – September 26, 1971) was an American historian, who won the 1950 Bancroft Prize and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for History. He is best known as a leader of the "Imperial school" of historians who studied the British Empire from the perspective of London officials, and generally praised the administrative efficiency and political fairness of the Empire.


A native of Greeley, Colorado, Gipson moved with his family to Caldwell, Idaho, as a boy. After dropping out of high school, he worked at various odd jobs (such as mining and driving stage coaches), as well as at the family business, Caxton Press, which published Idaho Odd Fellow, the Gem State Rural and Livestock Farmer.

Gipson graduated from the University of Idaho in 1903. He was then selected to be one of the first Rhodes Scholars. Receiving his B.A. from Oxford University in 1907 he said: "One disadvantage that our first delegation of Rhodes Scholars labored under was the fact that we attracted so much attention. I am sure that no subsequent group was ever the object of such intense curiosity. Almost inevitably we were made conscious that each of us was on trial, especially in the eyes of the scholarly world. We were even made to feel that in a sense the reputation of American scholarship was in our hands."

Returning to the United States, Gipson taught at The College of Idaho for three years and, in 1909, married Jeannette Reed (who died in 1967). He then attended Yale University as a Farnham Fellow from 1910 to 1911 before being named head of the history department at Wabash College, a position he held until 1924. While teaching at Wabash, he received his Ph.D. from Yale University, in 1918. He studied with the eminent colonialist Charles M. Andrews and received the university's John Addison Porter Prize for that year.


In 1924, Gipson was appointed professor of history at Lehigh University, a position he held until his death. There he wrote the 15-volume series The British Empire Before the American Revolution, (15 vol., 1936–70), completing the final volume only shortly before his death. Three of the volumes were given significant historical prizes:

  • The Great War for the Empire: The Years of Defeat, 1754-1757 (volume 6): The 1948 Columbia University Loubat Prize
  • The Great War for the Empire: The Victorious Years, 1758-1760 (volume 7): The 1950 Bancroft Prize of the American Historical Association
  • The Triumphant Empire: Thunderclouds Gather in the West, 1763-1766 (volume 10): The 1962 Pulitzer Prize

Gipson's ashes were buried in Caldwell. He left his entire estate to Lehigh University, providing the core funding for the Gipson Institute


  • "Dr. L. H. Gipson, Historian, Dies." New York Times, September 27, 1971.
  • Richard B. Morris, "The Spacious Empire of Lawrence Henry Gipson," William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Apr., 1967), pp. 170–189 in JSTOR
  • Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series : Lawrence Henry Gipson - 1880-1971
  • Patrick Griffin. "In Retrospect: Lawrence Henry Gipson's The British Empire before the American Revolution" Reviews in American History, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Jun., 2003), pp. 171–183 in JSTOR

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