David Kennedy
Professor of History, Stanford University

Great Historians

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Blum, Woodward, Potter.

David Kennedy

David M. Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachian Professor of History at Stanford University. His scholarship is notable for its integration of economic analysis with social history and political history. Kennedy has written over ten books; his first, Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger (1970), won the John Gilmary Shea Prize in 1970 and the Bancroft Prize in 1971. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Over Here: The First World War and American Society (1980) and won the Pulitzer in 2000 for his 1999 book Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. Other awards include the Francis Parkman Prize, the Ambassador's Prize and the California Gold Medal for Literature, all of which he received in the year 2000. Kennedy was educated at Stanford and Yale. The author of many articles, he has also penned a textbook, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, now in its thirteenth edition. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


David Kennedy: I would say my own mentors, particularly David Potter. I was also blessed with some great scholars who were my mentors when I was a graduate student. Some of them are still alive – John Morton Blum in particular was a great inspiration and mentor to me at graduate school at Yale. _______ Woodward, by most people’s acknowledgement – the dean of American historians of his generation, a great historian of the South and particularly the Jim Crow system – was another great inspiration to me. And in fact, Woodward had . . . He taught me something that I’ve tried to pass on to my students. Woodward believed that among the glories of history as an academic discipline was its capacity to speak to the general educated public, and it’s refusal to develop its own hermetically sealed jargon that was understandable only to other practitioners who had been baptized into the particular discourse. He dug that into us, that it was our responsibility to speak more broadly to the society at large. And that’s something that I really took to heart from him. Recorded on: 7/4/07