Friday Feature: New web resources for Historian William Appleman Williams

The OSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center is pleased to announce the release of two new websites devoted to the life and work of the influential historian William Appleman Williams (1921-1990), a former OSU professor remembered today as a founder of “revisionist history.”

William Appleman Williams near his home at Waldport, Oregon, circa 1970s. Source: William Appleman Williams Papers, 5.004.25.

The first project is “A Good Life and A Good Death: A Memoir of An Independent Lady,” a comprehensive biography written by Williams about his mother, Mildrede Williams. And while Mildrede remains the central character of the remembrance, the piece likewise reveals a great deal about Williams’ early life as well.  The memoir, which was never published, was used extensively by authors Paul Buhle (who provides an introduction to the two new websites) and Edward Rice-Maximin in their 1995 biography William Appleman Williams: The Tragedy of Empire.  The web version of this resource is available at:

The second project is “Unpublished Manuscripts,” a collection of speeches, lectures, book proposals and essays previously available only to scholars visiting the Williams Papers at OSU Libraries. The full text of thirteen manuscripts, spanning the years 1970-1990, comprise this digital collection. Its contents include topics familiar to students of Williams’ unique perspective on American history – politics, democracy, foreign policy, the Cold War, Karl Marx, the importance of higher education, and the future of America.

William Appleman Williams was a renowned author and historian who rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s for a collection of writings highly critical of U.S. foreign and economic policy. His essay “A Second Look at Mr. X” was published in the journal Monthly Review in 1952, and proved to be highly influential.  Two books that followed, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1959) and The Contours of American History (1961) are considered to be classics of revisionist historical analysis.  In addition to his often scathing critiques of American foreign policy, Williams also wrote extensively on American history, Russian history, U.S.-Russian/Soviet relations, and maritime history.

An Iowa native, Williams enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a university professor, working primarily at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1957-1968) and Oregon State University (1968-1986). A past President of the Organization of American Historians (1980), Williams retired from OSU in 1986 and his papers are held in the OSU Libraries.

Contact Chris Petersen at 541-737-2810 for more!

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