Oscar Handlin—a distinguished historian and a Harvard professor for nearly fifty years—passed away last week at 95. Handlin was the author of over 30 books, many of which were published by Harvard University Press. He also served on HUP’s Board of Directors, for awhile as its Chairman, and for a short time in 1972 he even served as acting Director of the Press, shepherding us through a particularly challenging period in our history.
Handlin is credited for pioneering American study of immigration. His first book, based on his Harvard dissertation under Arthur Schlesinger, entitled Boston’s Immigrants, 1790-1865, was published in 1941 as Number 50 in the Harvard Historical Studies series. In 1954 he was instrumental in the publication of The Harvard Guide to American History, along with such illustrious figures as Schlesinger, Samuel Eliot Morison, Frederick Merk, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Handlin’s best known book, for which he won a Pulitzer for history in 1952, is The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People.
As noted by the Boston Globe last week, Handlin was also a very effective teacher who leaves a lasting legacy: “Teaching was no less important to Dr. Handlin than writing or research. Many of the approximately 80 doctoral students he supervised went on to notable academic careers, among them Bernard Bailyn, Martin Baum Duberman, Sam Bass Warner, Stephan Thernstrom, and Richard Sennett.”
You can read more about Handlin’s life and work in his New York Times obituary.