Charles McLean Andrews

Charles McLean Andrews

Andrews, Charles McLean, 1863-1943, American historian, b. Wethersfield, Conn. He was associate professor at Bryn Mawr (1889-1907) and professor at Johns Hopkins (1907-10) and Yale (1910-31). Andrews, a leader in the reinterpretation of British colonial policy in America, studied the colonies in the light of the larger imperial problem, and his seminar in colonial institutions at Yale stimulated much able research in this field. His long, distinguished career reached a climax with The Colonial Period of American History (4 vol., 1934-38; Vol. I-III, The Settlements; Vol. IV, England's Commercial and Colonial Policy). This excellently received work won him the 1935 Pulitzer Prize for history and, in 1937, the gold medal for history and biography awarded only every 10th year by the National Institute of Arts and Letters. His other books include Colonial Self-Government, 1652-1689 (1904, repr. 1968; in the "American Nation" series), The Fathers of New England (1919) and Colonial Folkways (1919; both in the "Chronicles of America" series), and The Colonial Background of the American Revolution (1924, repr. 1961). He also compiled manuscript and bibliographical guides and wrote works on various historical subjects.

See biography by A. S. Eisenstadt (1956).

Charles McLean Andrews (February 22, 1863September 9, 1943) was one of the most distinguished American historians of his time and widely recognized as a leading authority on American colonial history.

Life and recognition

Born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, he received his A.B. from Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., in 1884 and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1889. He was a professor at Bryn Mawr College (1889-1907) and Johns Hopkins University (1907-1910) before going to Yale University. He was the Farnam Professor of American History at Yale from 1910 to his retirement in 1931.

He served as president of the American Historical Association in 1925. He held various memberships including the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Historical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Phi Beta Kappa. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Andrews won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1935 for Volumes 1 & 4 of his work The Colonial Period of American History. He was awarded the gold medal, given once a decade, by the National Institute of Arts and Letters for his work in history, and he received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and Lehigh University.

He married Evangline Holcombe Walker; their daughter Ethel married John Marshall Harlan II, who became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954.

Andrews died in New Haven, Connecticut.

Approach to history

His ancestors had been in Connecticut for seven generations, so his interest in American colonial history, including the history of Connecticut, is unsurprising (his first book, The River Towns of Connecticut, published in Baltimore in 1889, was about the settlement of Wethersfield, Hartford, and Windsor). Yet Andrews was not uncritical of early New England.

Along with Herbert L. Osgood of Columbia University, Andrews led a new approach to American colonial history, which has been called the "imperial" interpretation. Andrews and Osgood emphasized the colonies' imperial ties to Great Britain. Rather than emphasizing conscious British tyranny leading up to the American Revolution, in works such as The Colonial Period (New York, 1912), he saw the clash as the inevitable result of the inability of British statesmen to understand the changes in society in America.


In 1924 he wrote:

A nation's attitude toward its own history is like a window into its own soul and the men and women of such a nation cannot be expected to meet the great obligations of the present if they refuse to exhibit honesty, charity, open-mindedness, and a free and growing intelligence toward the past that has made them what they are.


From 1888 to 1937, Andrews wrote more than 100 books, articles, essays and published addresses, and it is estimated that he wrote about 360 book reviews, newspaper articles and short notes.

Among his published works:

  • The Colonial Period of American History New Haven, 1934-1937 (4 volumes), called "his masterpiece"
  • The Colonial Period New York, 1912
  • Colonial Self-Government
  • The Colonial Background of the American Revolution New Haven, 1924
  • The Fathers of New England
  • Colonial Folkways
  • Jonathan Dickinson's Journal, edited with Evangeline Walker Andrews



  • Eisenstadt, Abraham S., Charles McLean Andrews, New York, 1956
  • Labaree, Leonard W., "Charles McLean Andrews: Historian, 1863-1943", ''the William and mary Quarterly, third Series, I (January 1944, pp 3-14)

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