James Truslow Adams life and biography

James Truslow Adams picture, image, poster

James Truslow Adams biography

Date of birth : 1878-10-08
Date of death : 1949-05-18
Birthplace : Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2011-05-05
Credited as : Writer and historian, The Epic of America, Pulitzer Prize for History

1 votes so far

James Truslow Adams was an American writer and historian. He was not related to the famous Adams family (though he wrote a book about the family in 1930). He was not an academic, but a freelance author who helped to popularize the latest scholarship about American history, especially New England. and his three volume history of New England is well regarded by scholars.

Adams gained national attentions with his trilogy on the history of New England (1921-26), winning the Pulitzer Prize for the first volume. Scholars welcomed his social history of the colonial era, Provincial Society, 1690-1763 (1927). He wrote popular books and magazine articles in a steady stream. His Epic of America was an international bestseller. He was also the editor of a scholarly multi-volume Dictionary of American History. Adams was the editor, with Roy V. Coleman as managing editor, of The Atlas of American History (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943), and The Album of American History, 4 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944).

American Dream

Adams coined the term "American Dream" in his 1931 book The Epic of America. His American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

Two educations

A quote from one of Adams' essays "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live" is widely mis-attributed to John Adams. The quote is part of an essay by Adams entitled ‘To “Be” or to “Do”: A Note on American Education’ which appeared in the June, 1929 issue of Forum. The essay is very critical of American education, both in school and at the university level, and explores the role of American culture and class-consciousness in forming that system of education.

In a more complete version of that quote, Adams says: "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live. Surely these should never be confused in the mind of any man who has the slightest inkling of what culture is. For most of us it is essential that we should make a living...In the complications of modern life and with our increased accumulation of knowledge, it doubtless helps greatly to compress some years of experience into far fewer years by studying for a particular trade or profession in an institution; but that fact should not blind us to another—namely, that in so doing we are learning a trade or a profession, but are not getting a liberal education as human beings."

Adams lived in Southport, Connecticut, and died May 18, 1949.

After 1930 he was active in the American Academy of Arts and Letters serving as both chancellor and treasurer of that organization. He was also a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Massachusetts Historical Society, American Antiquarian Society, American Historical Association, and the American Philosophical Society. Among British societies he was honored as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Read more

Please read our privacy policy. Page generated in 0.099s