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John William Higham (October 26, 1920 – July 26, 2003) was an American historian, scholar of American culture, historiography and ethnicity.[1] In the 1950s he was a prominent critic of Consensus history. Historian Dorothy Ross says, "The multi-ethnic environment of his early life in Queens, the wartime optimism, and his immersion in Progressive history, with its fundamental faith in American democracy, gave him a vision of an egalitarian, cosmopolitan, American nationalism in which he never lost faith."[2]



John William Higham was born in Jamaica, Queens on October 26, 1920. He earned his undergraduate history degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1941 and received a master's degree from Yale University in 1942. In World War II, he served with the historical division of the Army Air Forces in Italy. He married psychologist Eileen Moss Higham in 1948.

After serving as assistant editor of The American Mercury, he earned a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1949, working with Merle Curti. He taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, Rutgers University, Columbia University and the University of Michigan before returning to Johns Hopkins in 1971.

He is noted for having described anti-Catholicism in the United States as "the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history".[3]

Higham died of a cerebral aneurysm in Baltimore, Maryland on July 26, 2003.[4] He was 82 years old at the time of his death.


  • Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925, Rutgers University Press, 1955. (Atheneum, 1963, [1981 - 21st Printing])
  • "The Cult of the American Consensus: Homogenizing Our History," Commentary (1959) 27#2 pp: 93–100.
  • "Beyond Consensus: The Historian as Moral Critic." American Historical Review (1962): 609–625. in JSTOR
  • "Changing paradigms: The collapse of consensus history." Journal of American History (1989): 460–466. in JSTOR; another copy
  • Send These to Me: Immigrants in Urban America, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.
  • Hanging Together: Unity and Diversity in American Culture, Yale University Press, 2001. Three decades of writings.


  1. ^ Oliver, Myrna (August 20, 2003). Obituaries; John Higham, 82; Historian Held to 'Melting Pot' View of America. Los Angeles Times
  2. ^ Dorothy Ross, John Higham: In Memoriam
  3. ^ Jenkins, Philip (1 April 2003). The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice. Oxford University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-19-515480-0.
  4. ^ Martin, Douglas (August 18, 2003). John Higham, 82, Historian of Nation's Role as a Melting Pot. New York Times

Further readingEdit