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Richard S. Dunn

Author of The Age of Religious Wars, 1559-1715

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Richard Slator Dunn (1928-)

Richard Slator Dunn retired in 1996 and was elected Professor Emeritus of History of the University of Pennsylvania.

Richard Dunn was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1928. His father, William P. Dunn was himself a Professor of English of the University of Minnesota.

Richard graduated from Harvard College with his Bachelor of Art in 1950, and took his Masters of Art (1952) and Philosophical Doctorate in History (1955) at Princeton University, where he also started his teaching career in 1954.

"Belatedly and almost accidentally I became interested in the history of slavery ... Eventually I drifted into American colonial history because I liked to work with Frank Craven, who taught at Princeton and was a specialist in the history of the seventeenth-century southern colonies".

After he completed his Ph.D., Richard taught at the University of Michigan from 1955 to 1957. He joined the faculty of the History Department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1957 and began working on his first book, published in 1962 as "Puritans and Yankees: The Winthrop Dynasty of New England, 1630-1717".

He was then promoted to Associate Professor in 1963 and after a year in England researching at the Public Record Office in the early 1960s he followed a new path of inquiry into the social development of the slave-based English Caribbean colonies of Barbados, Jamaica, and the Leeward Islands during the course of the seventeenth century. Some time after his promotion to full Professor (1968) he completed both "The Age of Religious Wars, 1559-1689" (1970) and "Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713" (1972).

"The PRO's manuscript Barbados census of 1680 where a far more detailed and probing set of documents than any mainland census for the colonial period and I saw at once that here was the evidence I needed to analyze the social structure of this booming sugar colony".

By 1972, Richard was appointed Chairman of the Department of History, a position he held until 1977. He founded the Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies the following year and served as the departments first director.

His two big editorial projects that he dis with his wife edited with Mary Maples Dunn, "The Papers of William Penn" in the 1980's and "The Journal of John Winthrop" in the 1990s, where competed while he had been working on his comparative study of Mesopotamia Estate in Jamaica and Mount Airy Plantation in Virginia. This important study, although allowing Richard to enabled me to reconstruct the individual biographies of a 1,103 Jamaican slaves who lived there between 1762 and 1833, and the lives of the 979 Virginian slaves who lived there between 1808 and 1865, the any slavery is abhorrent, it may have the adverse effect of allowing the idea that all slave colonies - particularly in the Caribbean Islands - are generally to be painted with the same brush. This work is to appear soon as "The Peoples of Mesopotamia and Mount Airy: Slave Life in Jamaica and Virginia, 1762-1865".

In addition to his own publications, he has contributed chapters to about a dozen of books, among them Seventeenth-century America: Essays in Colonial History (1959), Anglo-American Political Relations, 1675-1775 (1970), Early Maryland in a Wider World (1982), The World of William Penn (1986), and Cultivation and Culture: Labor and the Shaping of Slave Life in the Americas (1993).

Richard was appointed editor of the Early American Studies series (1992), and he is a member of American Historical Association, American Antiquarian Society, Organization of American Historians, Massachusetts Historical Society, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Library Company of Philadelphia, and Institute of Early American History and Culture Associates.

Among the numerous honors and awards he won throughout his career, Richard was elected Guggenheim Fellow (1966-1967), granted the American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (1977), appointed Fellow of the Queen's College, Oxford University (1987-1988), 'The Papers of William Penn' won a Distinguished Book Award from the Society of Colonial Wars (1990), and the Lindback Teaching Award was presented to him by the University of Pennsylvania (1993).

Richard Dunn retired in 1996 and was elected Professor Emeritus of History of the University of Pennsylvania.

Selected books and articles

The Age of Religious Wars, 1559-1689 (1970)
Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713 (1972)
The Papers of William Penn, ed. Mary Maples Dunn and others (1981-1987)
The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649 ed. Laetitia Yeandle (1996)
Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713 (2000)


1. Richard S. Dunn, "The Barbados Census of 1680: Profile of the Richest Colony in English America," William and Mary Quarterly, 3d Ser., XXVI (1969),. 7-8
2. Archives - University of Pennsylvania (1995)
3. A Conversation with Richard S. Dunn (1997)
4. Interview - "Common Place" (July 2001)
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