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American Writers: a journey through history is a permanent archive for educators, researchers and every one interested in the writers featured in the  C‑SPAN series.


IV







Born: February 16, 1838 - Boston, Massachusetts
Died: March 27, 1918 - Washington, D.C.


Adams was the great-grandson of John Adams and the grandson of John Quincy Adams. He graduated from Harvard in 1858 and embarked on a grand tour of Europe. From 1861 to 1868 he acted as his father's private secretary in London,
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Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams
C-SPAN's Video Library: Henry Adams
where his father was serving as a diplomat.

Returning to the United States, Adams traveled to Washington, D.C., as a correspondent for the Nation and other leading journals. He wrote numerous essays exposing political corruption and continued his reformist activities as editor of the North American Review (1870-76). The failure of Horace Greeley's campaign for the presidency led to his disillusionment with a world he felt was devoid of principle. His anonymously published Democracy, an American Novel (1880) reflected that loss of faith in Americans.

In 1870 Adams was appointed professor of medieval history at Harvard, where he was the first American to employ the seminar—as contrasted with the lecture—method in teaching history. He resigned in 1877 and soon completed two biographies, The Life of Albert Gallatin (1879) and John Randolph (1882). His study of American democracy culminated in his nine-volume History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (1889-91), which received immediate acclaim. In 1884 Adams wrote (under a pseudonym) another novel, Esther. His wife's suicide the following year stunned him and led to a period of restless wandering abroad.

Works by Henry Adams
The Life of Albert Gallatin (1879)
Democracy, an American Novel (1880)
John Randolph (1882)
Esther (1884)
History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (1889-91)
The Life of George Cabot Lodge (1911)
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1913)
The Education Of Henry Adams (1918)
From the 1870s until his last years, intellectuals gravitated to his home to discuss art, science, politics, and literature. His closest friends were the geologist Clarence King, with whom he maintained a rich and illuminating correspondence, and the diplomat and writer John Hay.

On several trips to France, Adams examined medieval Christendom, and in the much-admired Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1913) he described the medieval worldview as reflected in its cathedrals. The Education Of Henry Adams (1918) remains Adams's best-known work and one of the most distinguished of all autobiographies; it was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1919, and in 2000 a distinguished panel named it the greatest American work of nonfiction of the 20th century. In 1908 Adams published his edition of John Hay's letters and diary. His last work, The Life of George Cabot Lodge, appeared in 1911.

Web sites about Henry Adams
Henry Adams, Globe Trotter in Space and Time



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