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