W. Bruce Lincoln

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For the professor of religion, see Bruce Lincoln.

W. Bruce Lincoln (September 6, 1938 – April 9, 2000) was a scholar of early 20th century Russian history. Lincoln graduated with an A.B. and a Ph.D in 1960 and 1966 from the College of William and Mary and University of Chicago, respectively.

Education and career[edit]

Born in Suffield, Connecticut, he earned his bachelor's degree in 1960 at College of William and Mary and his doctorate in 1966.[1] Lincoln taught at Memphis State University from 1966–67 and at Northern Illinois University from 1967-99. Northern Illinois University named the W. Bruce Lincoln Endowed Lecture Series for him which "engage key issues and are often interdisciplinary, in the spirit of Professor Lincoln’s research, writing and teaching",[2] among the notables who have spoken at the lectures are America historian and author Timothy D. Snyder,[3] Richard White,[4] Walter LaFeber[5] John W. Dower,[6] Jonathan Spence,[7] and Ramón A. Gutiérrez,[8] Lizabeth Cohen[9] Among his most prominent positions at NIU were:

  • Presidential Research Professor, 1982-1986
  • University Research Professor, 1986-1990
  • Distinguished Research Professor and NIU Foundation Professor for Russian History, 1990-1999
  • Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, 1999-Death

He died on April 8, 2000 at Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb, Illinois after a long battle with cancer.[10]


His books sold more than 100,000 copies and were featured by the Book of the Month Club, he was also writing another book about the large, general history of Russia at the time of his death.[11] His book The Conquest of a Continent: Siberia and the Russians was named "one of that magazine's best books of 1994" by Publishers Weekly. Fernanda Eberstadt of The Washington Post summerized the book Passage Through Armageddon, "[it is] an accessible, comprehensive and eminently balanced history".[12] Post writer Jane Good summarized of the book Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War, "Covering all three topics in a single study of moderate length unfortunately results in a text that presumes more knowledge of Russian history than is typical of the general reader, yet glosses over details that would be of interest to the specialist. Nevertheless, Red Victory is worth reading by anyone willing to invest time and effort to better understand the Soviet Union"[13] John A. C. Greppin of The New York Times listed it "as a notable book of year by The New York Times Book Review", saying "It is successful not because of a new analysis of fact but because of its author's abiding descriptive powers; he presents a vast warring frontier filled with people who, no matter how familiar their names and actions have become, often baffle us".[1][14]

Susan Jacoby also of the Post said of his book Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of A Thousand Years of Artistic Life in Russia, it "surely represents a rare triumph of atavistic editorial support for a serious historical work over the commercial bottom line" and saying he "is at his best on Russia's earliest cultural roots and on the emergence of an influential avant-garde between 1890 and the early 1920s" but also criticized, saying "the book is weakest on the post-Stalin era, reading too much like a cut-and-paste compendium of well-known literary biographies" and "failure to discuss the samizdat phenomenon at length".[15] Duncan Fallowell of The Spectator criticized the book Sunlight at midnight, saying "It is not easy to write a bad book about St Petersburg and even Bruce Lincoln, who wrote an unreadable biography of Nicholas I, has not managed it...His writing is repetitious, which makes its omissions even more inexplicable (no reference to Charles Cameron or Rasputin, for example). He uses unconventional transliterations which look a bit silly on the page -- Tchaikovsky becomes 'Chaikovskii', Nijinsky 'Nizhinskii' etc. He also unforgivably perpetuates the myth that Tchaikovsky committed suicide, which has now been disproved".[16]

Lincoln himself also reviewed books including The Unquiet Ghost by Adam Hochschild, saying "Some of Hochschild's asides tend at times to be preachy, but his genuine human concern to understand what motivates men and women in the face of disaster and death make this an important book to read"[17] and When Titans Clashed by David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House, saying "This book does not present history in human terms. Instead, it distills one of the most dramatic chapters of human history into a passively written, albeit very important, analysis drawn from the contents of map-rooms, chalk boards, and tens of thousands of pages of military reports".[18]



  1. ^ a b Pace, Eric (April 14, 2000). "W. Bruce Lincoln, 61, Expert Who Enlivened Russian History". nytimes.com. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Historian to probe ‘family secrets’ at annual W. Bruce Lincoln lecture". niutoday.info. September 10, 2014. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Best-selling author, historian Timothy Snyder to deliver W. Bruce Lincoln lecture Sept. 19". niutoday.info. August 29, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Pulitzer-nominated historian of American West to deliver 10th annual W. Bruce Lincoln lecture". niutoday.info. September 10, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  5. ^ "PROMINENT HISTORIAN WALTER LAFEBER TO DELIVER W. BRUCE LINCOLN ENDOWED LECTURE". Federal News Service. March 17, 2006. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Prominent historian, author John W. Dower will deliver W. Bruce Lincoln lecture Sept. 21". niutoday.info. September 8, 2011. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  7. ^ "YALE HISTORIAN OF CHINA TO DELIVER W. BRUCE LINCOLN LECTURE". Federal New Service. October 1, 2009. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  8. ^ "PROMINENT UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HISTORIAN TO DELIVER W. BRUCE LINCOLN LECTURE". Federal News Service. October 16, 2010. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  9. ^ "HISTORIAN LIZABETH COHEN OF HARVARD TO DELIVER W. BRUCE LINCOLN ENDOWED LECTURE ON NOV. 30". Federal News Service. November 20, 2006. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  10. ^ "W. Bruce Lincoln, NIU professor who wrote histories of Russia". chicago.suntimes.com. April 15, 2000. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  11. ^ "DEATHS ELSEWHERE". washingtonpost.com. April 16, 2000. Retrieved July 3, 2015. [dead link]
  12. ^ "From the Czar to the Commissar". washingtonpost.com. October 5, 1986. Retrieved July 3, 2015. [dead link]
  13. ^ "THE RED AND THE WHITE". washingtonpost.com. January 14, 1990. Retrieved July 3, 2015. [dead link]
  14. ^ Johnson, George (January 6, 1991). "New & Noteworthy". nytimes.com. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  15. ^ "FROM ICONS TO SAMIZDAT". washingtonpost.com. June 21, 1998. Retrieved July 3, 2015. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Sunlight at midnight". spectator.co.uk. October 27, 2001. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  17. ^ "SHATTERING THE GREAT SILENCE". washingtonpost.com. April 10, 1994. Retrieved July 3, 2015. [dead link]
  18. ^ Lincoln, W. Bruce (March 10, 1996). "AT THE GATES OF MOSCOW". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  19. ^ "East or West? With this historical meditation on Russian identity, the late W. Bruce Lincoln secures his place as one of the leading historians of his generation.(Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia)(Review)". The World and I. October 1, 2001. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 

Lee Congdon, "W. Bruce Lincoln, 1938-2000," Slavic Review (Spring 2001) 60 no. 1, 229-230.

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