William Archibald Dunning
William Archibald Dunning (1857–1922) was an American historian and political scientist who taught many PhD students and founded the Dunning School of Reconstruction historiography at Columbia University.
Born in Plainfield, N. J., he was the son of a successful businessman who enjoyed the classics. Dunning took his degrees as Columbia University (B.A. 1881, M.A. 1884, and Ph.D. 1885). He spent a year in Berlin studying European history under Heinrich von Treitschke. He then returned to Columbia, where he rose up the ladder (fellow, lecturer, instructor, adjunct professor, and full professor) becoming in 1903, the Francis Lieber Professor of History and Political Philosophy. He married Charlotte E. Loomis in 1888; they had no children and she died in 1917.
His PhD dissertation, was The Constitution of the United States in Civil War and Reconstruction: 1860–1867 (1897). His scholarly essays collected in Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction and Related Topics and his survey for the "American Nation" series Reconstruction, Political and Economic: 1865–1877 (1907) set the tone. The Essays were pathbreaking. The Reconstruction book was too superficial for Dunning himself, as it distracted him from his major work on the history of political theory. Nevertheless these were the first major academic studies of the Reconstruction era. They were not based on the manuscripts and local sources that his students used to more advantage. Although his health was poor after 1903, Dunning wrote numerous scholarly articles and book reviews for the American Historical Review and the Political Science Quarterly, which he edited from 1894 to 1903.
Dunning had a dual role in history and political science. He was a leading expert in the history of political thought, as expressed in his masterful trilogy A History of Political Theories: Ancient and Medieval (1902), From Luther to Montesquieu (1905), and From Rousseau to Spencer (1920).
Smith says Dunning was far more important as a graduate teacher than as a research scholar. Columbia was a leading producer of PhDs and Dunning directed much graduate work in U.S. history and in European political thought. His students included men who became leading scholars and academic entrepreneurs, such as Charles Merriam, Harry Elmer Barnes, James Wilford Garner and Carlton J. H. Hayes. He also mentored C. Mildred Thompson (1881-1975), the history professor who became dean at Vassar College; she drafted the charter for UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and worked for civil rights in Atlanta. Dunning gave lifelong support to his students, providing continuous encouragement in their careers. The honored him with a Festschrift, Studies in Southern History and Politics Inscribed to William Archibald Dunning . . . by His Former Pupils the Authors (1914)
Many Southerners (and some Northerners) took PhDs in History under Dunning and returned to the South, where they dominated the major history departments. The ones who wrote dissertations on Reconstruction were James W. Garner, Walter Lynwood Fleming, J. G. deRoulhac Hamilton, Charles W. Ramsdell, C. Mildred Thompson, William Watson Davis, and Thomas S. Staple. They comprised the informal "Dunning School". The interpretation of post-Civil War Reconstruction that the Dunning School propounded was the dominant theory taught in American universities until in the first half of the 20th century. Bradley says, "The Dunning school condemned Reconstruction as a conspiracy by vindictive radical Republicans to subjugate southern whites at bayonet point, using federal troops to prop up corrupt state regimes led by an unholy trinity of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freedmen." Bradley notes that the Dunning interpretation was "received compelling treatment in such popular works as Claude Bowers’s The Tragic Era and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind—both the best-selling novel and the blockbuster film."
Reconstruction's players include the "carpetbaggers", Yankee new arrivals whom the Dunning School portrayed as greedy interlopers exploiting the South and dominating the Republican Party; the "scalawags", who were native southern whites collaborating with the Republicans; and the freedmen, whom the Dunning School portrayed as tools of the Carpetbaggers with little independent voice.
McRary says Dunning and his followers portrayed former plantation owners as honorable people with the South's best interests in mind.
Dunning was a Democrat who like most historians denounced the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. Dunning wrote from the point of view of the northern Democrats and painted the Radical Republicans as men who violated American traditions and were motivated by vengeance.
Historian Howard K. Beale was a leader of the "revisionist" school of the 1930s that broke with the Dunning interpretation. Beale says the Dunning School broke new ground by escaping the political polemics of the day and used "meticulous and thorough research...in an effort to determine the truth rather than prove a thesis." Beale states that, "The emphasis of the Dunning school was upon the harm done to the South by Radical Reconstruction and on the sordid political and economic motives behind Radicalism. Dunning strongly opposed slavery and his essays explain the legal basis for its destruction.
The Dunning School after 1950 came under attack by neoabolitionist historians who seek to place African Americans at the center of Reconstruction. The revisionist view was expanded and revised by Eric Foner and others. They castigated Dunning for his harsh treatment of Blacks in Reconstruction (1907). Muller points that Dunning was equally harsh on all the major players: "Dunning's antipathy in Reconstruction is generously heaped on all groups, regardless of race, color, creed, or sectional origins."
Dunning's views were disputed by black historians W. E. B. Du Bois beginning in 1901, and later John Hope Franklin in a number of his books, including, Militant South and Reconstruction: after the Civil War. The viewpoint of Dunning and his students was sympathetic to the white Southerners. who they saw as being stripped of their rights by a vengeful North after 1865. They criticized the control over the black vote by Carpetbaggers. "Dunning admits that "The legislation of the reorganized governments, under cover of police regulations and vagrancy laws, had enacted severe discriminations against the freedmen in all the common civil rights." 
In Black Reconstruction in America, Du Bois characterized Dunning's Reconstruction, Political and Economic as a "standard, anti-Negro" text. In turn Dunning and his students generally rejected Du Bois and his Marxist interpretation of the history of Reconstruction which called for a biracial uprising of the poor against the rich.
Since the 1930s, historians have moved on. The revisionists in the 1930s emphasized that Northern capitalism was the villain. Since the 1960s historians have portrayed positive roles for the freedmen.
Books by Dunning
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Essays on the civil war and reconstruction and related topics (1897, 2nd ed. 1904) online edition
- History of Political Theories, Ancient and Mediœval (3 vol., 1902–20) vol 1 online; vol 2 online; vol 3 online
- History of Political Theories from Luther to Montesquieu (1905)
- Reconstruction, Political and Economic, 1865–1877 (1907) online edition
- A Sketch of Carl Schurz's Political Career, 1869-1906 (with Frederic Bancroft; 1908)
- Paying for Alaska (1912)
- The British Empire and the United States (1914)
- Studies in southern history and politics (1914) online edition
- http://books.google.com/books?q=inauthor:William+inauthor:Archibald+inauthor:Dunning&as_brr=1. Missing or empty
- Mark C. Smith. "Dunning, William Archibald" in American National Biography Online 2000
- J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, "Dunning, William Archibald," in Dictionary of American Biography (1930) vol 3
- Muller (1974) p 331n24
- William Harris Bragg, "C. Mildred Thompson (1881-1975)," The New Georgia Encyclopedia (2005)
- Smith (2000)
- Muller (1974) p 334
- Mark L. Bradley, Bluecoats and Tar Heels: Soldiers and Civilians in Reconstruction North Carolina (2009) p 268
- Bradley, Bluecoats and Tar Heels (2009) p 268
- McCrary, Peyton, "The Reconstruction Myth" in Encyclopedia of Southern Culture]
- Beale, 1940, p 807
- Beale, 1940, p 807
- Dunning, Essays on the civil war and reconstruction and related topics (1897)
- Thomas J. Brown, Reconstructions: New Perspectives on the Postbellum United States. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006.
- Muller (1974) p 335
- "Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction, by Dunning, p. 92, cited and quoted in Du Bois, W.E.B. Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (1936) p. 179-180.
- John B. Boles; and Bethany L. Johnson (2003). Origins of the New South Fifty Years Later: The Continuing Influence of a Historical Classic. Louisiana State U.P. pp. 11–12.
- Beale, Howard K. "On Rewriting Reconstruction History," American Historical Review (1940), 45#4 pp. 807–827 in JSTOR
- Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. 1988.
- Du Bois, W.E.B.. Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 (1937) p. 179-180.
- Fitzgerald, Michael W. "Political Reconstruction, 1865-1877," in A Companion to the American South, ed. John B. Boles (Blackwell, 2002), 84-302.
- Franklin, John Hope. "Mirror for Americans: A Century of Reconstruction History" presidential address, American Historical Association. 1979.
- Hamilton, J. G. de Roulhac. "Dunning, William Archibald," in Dictionary of American Biography (1930) vol 3
- McCrary, Peyton. "The Reconstruction Myth" in Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (University of North Carolina Press: 1989)
- Muller, Philip R. "Look Back Without Anger: A Reappraisal of William A. Dunning," Journal of American History (1974): 61 #2 325-38. in JSTOR
- Simkins, Francis B. "New Viewpoints of Southern Reconstruction," Journal of Southern History (1939) 5#1 pp 49–61; in JSTOR
- Smith, Mark C. "Dunning, William Archibald" in American National Biography Online Feb. 2000 Access Date: May 19, 2013
- Stephenson, Wendell Holmes. South Lives in History: Southern Historians and Their Legacy (1969)
- Weisberger, Bernard A. "The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography," Journal of Southern History (1959) 25: 427-447. in JSTOR
- Wharton, Vernon L. "Reconstruction," in Writing Southern History: Essays in Historiography in Honor of Fletcher M. Green, ed. Arthur S. Link and Rembert W. Patrick (Louisiana State University Press, 1965), pp 295–315
- Williams, T. Harry. "An Analysis of Some Reconstruction Attitudes," Journal of Southern History (1946) 12:469-486 in JSTOR
- Zeitz, Joshua. The New Republic, 18 January 1999, pp. 13–15.