Ray Allen Billington

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Ray Allen Billington (September 28, 1903 – March 7, 1981) was an American historian focusing his work on the history of the frontier and the American West. He was born in Bay City, Michigan and died in San Marino, California. He became one of the leading defenders of Frederick Jackson Turner's "Frontier Thesis" from the 1950s to the 1970s.[1][2] Billington also expanded the field of the history of the American West, helping found the Western History Association in 1961.[3]


Billington studied at the University of Michigan, but was expelled. He held two Ph.D. degrees from University of Wisconsin 1926, and Harvard University 1933. He taught at Clark University, Smith College, Northwestern University, and served as a professor at Oxford University. He retired from his teaching career in 1964 and became the Senior Research Associate at the Huntington Library. He married Mabel R. Crotty; they had two children.[4]

The Ray Allen Billington Prize is given biennially by the Organization of American Historians for the best book in American frontier history.[5] Occidental College has begun a search for the Ray Allen Billington Distinguished Visiting Professor in U.S. History.[6]




  1. ^ Billington, Ray Allen (January 1970). "The Frontier and I". Western Historical Quarterly 1 (1): 4–20. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Ridge, Martin (January 1988). "Frederick Jackson Turner, Ray Allen Billington, and American Frontier History". Western Historical Quarterly 19 (1): 4–20. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Lamar, Howard R. (October 1986). "Much to Celebrate: The Western History Association's Twenty-Fifth Birthday". Western Historical Quarterly 17 (4): 397–416. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "Memoirs", Proceeding of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1981 Richard W. Leopold
  5. ^ http://www.oah.org/activities/awards/billington/index.html
  6. ^ http://departments.oxy.edu/history/billington/main2.htm

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