McMaster, John Bach


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McMaster, John Bach,

1852–1932, American historian, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. Having practiced engineering in New York City and written two books, McMaster was appointed (1877) an instructor in civil engineering at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). On a trip to Wyoming (1878), he was struck with the drama of the frontier, and his determination to write a history of the United States was renewed. After the successful appearance of his first volume in 1883, he was offered a newly created professorship of American history at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, where he remained until he retired in 1920. His History of the People of the United States (8 vol., 1883–1913), covering the period from the American Revolution to the Civil War, is marked by an emphasis on social and economic affairs, by the use of newspapers and other contemporary sources previously neglected by historians, and by a simple and straightforward narrative. He wrote a ninth volume, A History of the People of the United States during Lincoln's Administration (1927) and a number of highly successful school textbooks.

Bibliography

See biography by E. F. Goldman (1943).

McMaster, John Bach

 

Born June 29, 1852, in Brooklyn, N.Y.; died May 24, 1932, in Darien, Conn. American historian.

McMaster was professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania from 1883 to 1920. Influenced by positivism, he opposed the exclusive attention given by American historians to political questions. His works contain much material on the history of the everyday life, mores, and culture of the country. He expanded the sphere of problems studied, addressing himself to the history of the colonization of the west of the USA and, to some extent, to economic history.

McMaster adhered to the conservative assessments that were dominant in American bourgeois historiography. In his work, the bourgeoisie was the hero of American history. Attempting to present the historical development of the USA as an unbroken evolutionary process, he characterized the American War of Independence of 1775-83 as a “respectable” revolution and contrasted it to the “excesses” of the Great French Revolution. He played down the social contradictions in American history, especially the conflicts between labor and capital. McMaster also was famous as a master of the genre of historical biography.

WORKS

A History of the People of the United States From the Revolution to the Civil War, vols. 1-8. New York, 1883-1913.
A History of the People of the United States During Lincoln’s Administration. New York-London, 1927.

I. P. DEMENT’EV

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