Motley, John Lothrop
Motley, John Lothrop
Motley, John Lothrop, 1814–77, American historian and diplomat, b. Dorchester, Mass. Author of two novels concerning Thomas Morton (1839 and 1849), as well as a number of articles for the North American Review. Motley's study of the history of the Netherlands resulted in The Rise of the Dutch Republic (3 vol., 1856), long a standard work and a popular success, and History of the United Netherlands (4 vol., 1860–67). His last work, The Life and Death of John of Barneveld, appeared in 1874. Motley had spent a short period in 1841 as secretary of the U.S. legation at St. Petersburg and later was minister to Austria (1861–67). President Grant appointed him minister to Great Britain in 1869, but difficulties arising from Motley's tendency to ignore the instructions of Secretary of State Hamilton Fish and from Grant's animosity toward his sponsor and friend, Charles Sumner, caused him to be relieved of his post in 1870.
See O. W. Holmes, John Lothrop Motley: A Memoir (1879); G. W. Curtis, ed., The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley (1889); John Lothrop Motley and His Family (ed. by his daughter, Susan M. Mildmay, and H. S. Mildmay, 1910).
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Motley, John Lothrop(1814–77) historian, diplomat; born in Dorchester, Mass. Son of a wealthy family, he graduated from Harvard (1831), then spent several years in Germany, Britain, and elsewhere in Europe where he got to know the intellectual and political elite, including Otto von Bismarck. Back in Boston in 1835, he married and decided on a literary career. His first two novels were not successful, so after several months as secretary to the U.S. embassy in St. Petersburg, Russia (1841), he decided to devote himself to writing history—specifically, the history of the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. He published the work for which he remains best known, The Rise of the Dutch Republic (1856). He served as ambassador to Austria (1861–67) and Britain (1869–70) while publishing The History of the United Netherlands, 1584–1609 (four vols. 1860–67), but died before he could bring his history to its climax in 1648. Although composed in an engaging style, his history has been regarded by most scholars as a highly personal interpretation of events.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.