Jared Sparks


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(1789–1866), born in Connecticut, after graduation from Harvard (1815) became a tutor at the college (1817–19), a Unitarian minister at Baltimore (1819–23), and editor of The North American Review (1817–18, 1824–30). Returning to Harvard to become the first professor of history in any American university (1839–49), he was elected president (1849–53), in which capacity he failed to further the historical program he had so promisingly begun. In his writings he broke the ground for the modern study of American history, and as editor of The Library of American Biography contributed lives of John Ledyard (1828) and of Gouverneur Morris (3 vols., 1832). Although his editorship did much to make known previously unprinted manuscripts, he was not a scientific historian, and frequently bowdlerized in order to present his subjects as gentlemen and heroes, in such works as The Writings of George Washington, containing a biography in volume I (12 vols., 1834–37), The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution (12 vols., 1829–30), and The Works of Benjamin Franklin (10 vols., 1836–40).

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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