Westermann, William Linn

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Westermann, William Linn


Born Sept. 15, 1873, in Belleville, III.; died Oct. 4, 1954, in New York. American papyrologist and historian of the classical world.

Westermann was a professor of ancient history at the university of Missouri from 1902 to 1906, the University of Minnesota from 1906 to 1908, the University of Wisconsin from 1908 to 1920, Cornell University from 1920 to 1923, and Columbia University from 1923 to 1948. Under Westermann’s direction, and with his participation, the Greek papyrus collections of Cornell and Columbia universities and the University of Wisconsin were collected and published with extensive commentaries.

Westermann’s research focused on the problem of slavery in antiquity. His works fostered a trend that rejected or minimized the role of slavery in history. According to Westermann, slavery, serfdom, and hired labor were equally characteristic of classical society, and it was only through a chance combination of circumstances in certain periods of classical history, such as the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. in Greece and the second and first centuries B.C. in Rome, that slavery became widespread. Westermann considered ideological, rather than socioeconomic, phenomena to be the driving forces of historical processes.


Greek Papyri in the Library of Cornell University. New York, 1926. (With C.J. Kraemer.)
Upon Slavery in Ptolemaic Egypt. New York, 1929.
Zenon Papyri, vols. 1–2. New York, 1934–40. (With E. S. Hasenoehrl, C. W. Keyes, and H. Liebesny.)
Apokrimata. New York, 1954. (With A. A. Schiller.)
The Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity. Philadelphia, 1955.


Korsunskii, A. R., et al. “Westermann, W. L.: The Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1958, no. 4. [Review.]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Mentioned in ?