Harvey Mansfield was born in one college town, raised in another one.
Question: Where are you from and how has that shaped you?
Harvey Mansfield: I was born in New Haven. That’s a town in Connecticut. It meant that I came from an academic background. And that has certainly shaped me. My father was as professor. Political science of all things. But he was less theoretical. He studied American politics. I did political philosophy. My main influence as a young person was certainly my father. A little bit older, I came under the influence of Leo Strauss, the great refugee German/Jewish professor to Chicago. And also I’d like to mention as influences my teacher at Harvard, Sam Beir, a very manly man and a very intelligent man; as well as my father and my late wife, Delba Winthrop who was as student of mine. I was her teacher. Sometimes as a teacher you come across somebody who’s smarter than you are. That’s the kind you’re especially looking for, and she taught me a lot. At a certain point – I think when I was a freshman at Harvard, a section man –a teaching fellow – looked at me and said, “It’s in the cards for you to be an academic.” And it seemed that I just slid into it without ever making a full-blown, conscious, deliberate decision.
Recorded on: 6/13/07