John Morton Blum

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John Morton Blum
Born (1921-04-29)April 29, 1921
New York City
Died October 17, 2011(2011-10-17) (aged 90)
North Branford, Connecticut
Occupation Historian, professor, editor
Nationality American
Period Wilson Era, Progressive presidents, early-mid 20th century
Genre Historical
Spouse Pamela Zink Blum
Children Three

John Morton Blum (/blʌm/; April 29, 1921 – October 17, 2011) was an American historian, active from the 1950 to 1991. He was a specialist in 20th-century American political history and a senior advisor to Yale officials.


Blum came from a Jewish family of limited means and attended Phillips Andover prep school and Harvard College on scholarships and campus jobs.[1] Upon graduation in 1943, he was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy. He served in the Caribbean, the South West Pacific theatre of World War II and off Iwo Jima. He returned to Harvard to write his PhD in 1950 under the direction of Frederick Merk.[2] Blum married Pamela Zink in 1946 and had three children.[3] He taught at MIT from 1948 to 1957 before moving to Yale University in 1957. He retired in 1991.[4][5][6]

Professor at Yale[edit]

Blum was on the history faculty at Yale for thirty-four years, where he taught and influenced thousands of students. One of the students in his large lecture class was George W. Bush; Blum later admitted "I haven't the foggiest recollection of him."[7] But Bush remembered and cited Blum's influence in his commencement speech at Yale in May 2001.[8] Other prominent students of his include Professor Henry Louis Gates, who considered Blum to be his mentor,[9] as well as Professor Laura Kalman (University of California, Santa Barbara),[10] Steve Gillon, resident historian of the History Channel, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman.[6]

Blum was one of the "Big Three" in Yale's History Department along with C. Vann Woodward and Edmund Morgan,[11] and served as chairman of the History Department in the late 1960s.[6]

The John Morton Blum Fellowship in American History and Culture is awarded at Yale.[12]



The author of several historical works, including Joseph Tumulty and the Wilson Era (1951), The Republican Roosevelt (1954), V Was for Victory (1977), and Years of Discord (1992), an edited collection Liberty, Justice, Order, as well as one mystery based on Yale, An Old Blue Corpse (2005).[13] He also wrote a memoir, A Life with History (2004). Perhaps his most widely read work was The National Experience, a university history textbook he edited and co-authored with William S. McFeely, Edmund S. Morgan, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and Kenneth M. Stampp in 1963.[14]

A specialist on the New Deal, he wrote From the Morgenthau Diaries (3 vol. 1959–67), a biography closely based on the diaries of Henry Morgenthau, Sr., the Treasury Secretary 1933–45. Blum was also prolific as an editor, including coeditor of The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt (8 vol 1954), edited by Elting E. Morison. He edited the letters of Walter Lippmann and Henry A. Wallace.

Film and television[edit]

Blum made a cameo appearance as himself in the 1983 Woody Allen film Zelig,[15] and he has appeared in various documentaries on PBS such as the American Experience series, including Theodore Roosevelt in 1996 with fellow historian David McCullough.[16] In 1999 he appeared in "The Great War" segment of The Century: America's Time.[17]

Honors and awards[edit]

  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1960)[2]
  • Pitt Professorship at Cambridge (1963–1964)[2]
  • Harmsworth Professorship, Oxford University (1976–1977)[2]
  • Honorary Degree from Harvard University (1980)[2]


  1. ^ (Blum 2004)
  2. ^ a b c d e David M. Kennedy, "John Morton Blum, 1921–2001: Historian of Modern America," Perspectives on History (December 2011).
  3. ^ "Storied professor dies". The Yale Daily News. Accessed October 21, 2011.
  4. ^ "Ivy League Insider". Harvard Magazine (November–December 2004). Accessed October 21, 2011.
  5. ^ "A Life with History". University Press of Kansas.
  6. ^ a b c "Iconic historian passes away". Yale Daily News. Accessed October 21, 2011.
  7. ^ George W. Bush, Decision Points, London: Virgin Books, 2010, p. 15
  8. ^ "Commencement Address at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut May 21, 2001". The American Presidency Project. Accessed October 21, 2011.
  9. ^ U.S.News & World Report.
  10. ^ "Department of History". University of California, Santa Barbara. Accessed October 21, 2011.
  11. ^ "From Here to There: A Review". PM Press. Accessed October 21, 2011.
  12. ^ "Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences". Yale University. Accessed October 21, 2011.
  13. ^ "John Morton Blum, 1921–2011". Yale Alumni Magazine. Accessed October 21, 2011.
  14. ^ "John Morton Blum, Yale presidential historian, dies at 90". The Washington Post. Accessed October 25, 2011.
  15. ^ "John Morton Blum Filmography". The New York Times. Accessed October 21, 2011.
  16. ^ "American Experience". PBS. Accessed October 21, 2011.
  17. ^ "The Century" full cast and credits. Internet Movie Database. Accessed October 21, 2011.

Blum JM. A life with History. Harvard University Press 2004.