Bruce Mazlish

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Bruce Mazlish (September 15, 1923 – November 27, 2016) was an American historian who was a professor in the Department of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [1] His work focuses on historiography and philosophy of history, history of science and technology, artificial intelligence, history of the social sciences, the two cultures and bridging the humanities and sciences (natural and social), revolution, psychohistory, history of globalization and the history of global citizenship. He has worked to build the latter two into a public intellectual movement, through initiatives such as the New Global History conferences. [2]

Massachusetts Institute of Technology University in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Institute is a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant university, with an urban campus that extends more than a mile (1.6 km) alongside the Charles River. The Institute also encompasses a number of major off-campus facilities such as the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the Bates Center, and the Haystack Observatory, as well as affiliated laboratories such as the Broad and Whitehead Institutes. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. It has since played a key role in the development of many aspects of modern science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and is widely known for its innovation and academic strength, making it one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.

Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches. Scholars discuss historiography by topic—such as the historiography of the United Kingdom, that of WWII, the British Empire, early Islam, and China—and different approaches and genres, such as political history and social history. Beginning in the nineteenth century, with the development of academic history, there developed a body of historiographic literature. The extent to which historians are influenced by their own groups and loyalties—such as to their nation state—remains a debated question.

Philosophy of history is the philosophical study of history and the past. The term was coined by Voltaire.



Mazlish was hired as an instructor at MIT in 1950. He became full Professor in the MIT History Department in 1965. Aside from a couple of years when he completed his PhD, and then a few years teaching and researching abroad, he remained in active teaching at MIT until fall 2003, when he assumed emeritus status. Some of his course offerings included "Marx, Darwin and Freud," "Modernity, Post-modernity and Capitalism," and "The New Global History." [3]

Mazlish was an editor of, and contributor to, several collected volumes, and the author of over two dozen books (with translations into six different languages), as well as several dozen more articles and reviews in over two dozen peer-reviewed journals (a couple of which he founded) in addition to various periodicals.

Notable among his publications are: The Western Intellectual Tradition (1960; co-authored with Jacob Bronowski, this became a classic used in university courses and translated into many languages), Psychoanalysis and History (1963 edited volume), The Riddle of History: The Great Speculators from Vico to Freud (1966), The Revolutionary Ascetic (1976), A New Science: The Breakdown of Connections and the Birth of Sociology (1989), The Leader, the Led, and the Psyche (1990), Conceptualizing Global History (1991, co-edited with Ralph Buultjens), The Fourth Discontinuity: The Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines (1993), The Uncertain Sciences (1998), The Global History Reader (2005, co-edited with Akira Iriye, based on a course co-taught at Harvard in 2004), The New Global History (2006), and The Idea of Humanity in a Global Era (2009). He also wrote psychohistorical biographies on Richard Nixon (written at the time of the Watergate hearings, and receiving wide popular attention and acclaim), Henry Kissinger, and James and John Stuart Mill.

Jacob Bronowski Polish-born British mathematician

Jacob Bronowski was a British mathematician and historian. He is best known for developing a humanistic approach to science, and as the presenter and writer of the thirteen part 1973 BBC television documentary series, and accompanying book, The Ascent of Man, which led to his regard as "one of the world's most celebrated intellectuals".

Akira Iriye is a historian of American diplomatic history, especially United States–East Asian relations, and international issues. He is the only Japanese citizen ever to serve as president of the American Historical Association, and has also served as president for the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. In 2005, he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star, one of Japan's highest civilian honors. He was also awarded Japan's Yoshida Shigeru Prize for best book in public history.

Richard Nixon 37th president of the United States

Richard Milhous Nixon was an American politician who served as the 37th president of the United States from 1969 until his resignation in 1974. The only president to resign from the office, he previously served as the nation's 36th vice president from 1953 to 1961, and as a representative and senator from California.

His articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as History and Theory, American Historical Review, Historically Speaking, and New Global Studies, [4] as well as periodicals for a more general audience, including Book Review Digest, Center Magazine, Encounter, The Nation, The New Republic, New York Magazine, and The Wilson Quarterly. Reviews of his books have appeared in a wide range of publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Fortune Magazine, The New York Review of Books, and the New York Times. [5]

In 1960, he was a founding associate editor of History and Theory, [6] helping to edit it for ten years. In 1969 he was instrumental in the establishment of the Journal of Interdisciplinary History , [7] [8] helping to secure its financial and institutional footing, and serving on its Board of Advisors from its founding until his death. [3]

<i>Journal of Interdisciplinary History</i> journal

The Journal of Interdisciplinary History is a peer-reviewed academic journal published four times a year by the MIT Press. It covers a broad range of historical themes and periods, linking history to other academic fields.

Mazlish has been substantively involved in the major ongoing activity of the Toynbee Foundation, the New Global History Initiative, which organized several international conferences [9] and since 2007 has published the New Global Studies Journal (a peer-reviewed electronic journal). [10] Mazlish is one of the editors, along with Nayan Chanda (Yale), Akira Iriye (Emeritus, Harvard), Saskia Sassen (Columbia), and Kenneth Weisbrode (Managing Editor).

Nayan Chanda is the founder and editor-in-chief of YaleGlobal Online, an online magazine that publishes articles about globalisation. The magazine launched in 2001. Control of the magazine was transferred in 2013 from the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization to the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale.

Saskia Sassen sociologist

Saskia Sassen is a Dutch-American sociologist noted for her analyses of globalization and international human migration. She is Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and Centennial visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. Sassen coined the term global city.

Mazlish was also one of the founding members of the Wellfleet Psychohistory Group.

In 2004, the journal Historically Speaking, on the occasion of an interview with Mazlish, conducted by its editor, Donald Yerxa, described him as "identified with several seemingly disparate intellectual pursuits", including psychohistory, the history of the social sciences, and the new field of "global history", which he was then helping to shape. [11]

Awards and honors

Mazlish was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1967. [12] [13] The Academy funded a project examining the feasibility of psychohistory; Mazlish was a primary investigator, along with Erik Erikson, Philip Rieff, Robert Lifton, and others. [14] [15] [16]

In 1972-73 Mazlish was a recipient of a Social Science Research Council Faculty Fellowship and made a Visiting Member of the Institute for Advanced Study. [17]

From 1974 to 1979, Mazlish served as Head of MIT’s Department of Humanities (Course XXI). At the time, there were 11 “sections” representing their disciplines (this amounted to about 140 faculty), an unwieldy administrative structure. When he stepped down, he recommended that each section became an autonomous department; this occurred a few years later. [18]

Mazlish received the Toynbee Prize for 1986-87. [19] Other recipients include George F. Kennan, Ralf Dahrendorf, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and Albert O. Hirschman. He also served on the Board of Trustees (1992-2007), and as President (1997-2006), of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, [3] which is an affiliated society of the American Historical Association, and sponsors one session at the Association's annual meeting, when the prize is awarded. [20] [21]

Mazlish served on the Scholars Council for the Kluge Prize of the Library of Congress, [22] 2000-2003, and on the governing board of the Rockefeller Archive Center, 1999-2005. [23]

Invited lectures have included the Remsen Bird Honorary Lecture at Occidental College, the Presidential Lecture at Brown University, along with innumerable others in the United States and abroad, including in Argentina, India, Great Britain, and Russia." [3]

The MIT History faculty held a symposium, "World into Globe – History for the 21st Century" to celebrate his work and teaching in 2011. [24]

Mazlish's books have received several honors, including the Hudson Book Club Selection, Book Find Club Selection, [3] and Kayden National Book Award (1994-1995, for his 1993 The Fourth Discontinuity. [25]

Early life and family

Bruce Mazlish was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1923. His father, Louis Mazlish, had immigrated as a teenager from what was then Russia. A largely self-taught engineer and entrepreneur, Louis Mazlish started a laundry service for which he developed much of the equipment. He married Lee Reuben in 1919, and had three children, of whom Bruce was the middle, with an older brother Robert and a younger sister, Elaine.

Bruce Mazlish attended local public primary schools in Brooklyn, and then elected to go to Boys High School, which drew its students on a city-wide basis. Upon graduation he entered Columbia University in 1940.

Having enlisted in the Officer's Reserve Corps, Mazlish was called up in 1943, and underwent basic training in the US infantry. Subsequently he served in the Office of Strategic Services, assigned to the Far East arena, in Morale Operations. When the war ended, Columbia granted him a catch-up BA dated 1944.

Mazlish worked as a journalist at The Washington Daily News (now defunct) for half of a year, spent a year with his wife in Mexico working on a novel, and then worked at a third-rate prep school, teaching English (for which he was qualified) and History (which he learned by reading one chapter ahead of his students). Teaching the latter gave him an original view of the discipline, and the G.I. Bill drove educational expansion and demand for teachers in the post-WWII years.

In this way, Mazlish stumbled onto the path of the academic world, teaching history for two years at the University of Maine, Brunswick campus, and then completing advanced degrees at Columbia University in literature (MA thesis: “Defoe: Criminologist,” 1947) and then a Ph.D in Modern European History, where he worked mainly under Professors Shepherd Clough and Jacques Barzun (thesis on “Burke, Bonald and De Maistre: A Study in Conservative Thought”, 1955)." [3]

Mazlish was married to Neva Goodwin, economist and co-director of the Global Development And Environment Institute at Tufts University, with whom he has published and edited several works. Previously, he was married to Constance Shaw (fellow OSS officer in WWII), and to Anne Austin. He had two children from his first marriage, Cordelia and Peter Shaw, and two from his second, Anthony and Jared. He passed on November 27, 2016 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was eulogized in the New York Times, [26] by several at the Toynbee Prize Foundation , [27] by MIT News, [28] and at an MIT Memorial service. [29]


Selected articles

Related Research Articles


  1. Sleeman, Elizabeth, ed. (2003). International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004. Europa Publications. p. 379. ISBN   978-1857431797.
  2. [Perspectives On Global History |Toynbee Prize Foundation (Mission) Archived 2015-03-21 at the Wayback Machine ]
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Bruce Mazlish". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-05.
  4. An exhaustive list includes as well: Annual of Psychoanalysis, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Daedalus, Globality Studies Journal, History of European Ideas, History of the Human Sciences, The Journal of American History, The Journal of Civil Society, The Journal of Contemporary History, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, The Journal of Philosophy, The Journal of World History, Nature, Oral History Review, Philosophy and History, Phylon, Political Science Quarterly, The Psychohistory Review, The Review of Politics, Science, Society, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Technology and Culture, Theoria, Theory, Culture & Society, and Transactions of the Royal Historical Society.
  5. Reviews have also appeared in Book Find Club Selection, Contemporary Sociology, Enterprise and Society, Foreign Affairs, Futures, History: Review of New Books, Hudson Book Club Selection, Isis, The Journal of Computing in Higher Education, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Journal of Social History, Leonardo, Publishers Weekly, and Social Forces.
  6. "History and Theory (1960) Volume I, Number 1, front matter, inside cover [requires login credentials]". History and Theory. 1 (1). 1960. JSTOR   2504254.
  7. "The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Editorial Info".
  8. "The Journal of International History (1970) Volume I, Number 1; front matter, inside cover [requires login credentials]". The Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 1 (1): 1. 1970. JSTOR   202406.
  9. "International Conferences on Global History".
  10. "New Global Studies Journal". Archived from the original on 2014-04-28./
  11. "Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society, July/August 2004: Volume V, Number 6".
  12. "Academy of Arts & Sciences Website Search". Archived from the original on 2014-09-01.
  13. "Members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences: 1780-2012" (PDF).
  14. "The Psychohistorical Process". Archived from the original on 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
  15. "A Controversial Discipline" by Philip Nobile, The New York Times, October 10th, 1976
  16. "Bruce Mazlish: Pioneer Psychohistorian" interview by Tomasz Pawelec in Clio’s Psyche Vol 3, No 3, December, 1996
  17. [Mazlish, Bruce | Institute for Advanced Study]
  18. "Soundings Fall 2000 (An Interview with Bruce Mazlish)".
  19. "Toynbee Prize Winners - Toynbee Prize Foundation".
  20. "About the Foundation". Toynbee Prize Foundation.
  21. "Toynbee Prize Foundation (Affiliated Societies)".
  22. "Scholars Council - John W. Kluge Center (Library of Congress)".
  23. "Rockefeller Archive Center Newsletter Spring 2004" (PDF).
  24. Khoury, Philip S. (2012-08-28). "Globality Studies Journal (GSJ) World into Globe I: Introductory Remarks". (31).
  25. "The Fourth Discontinuity - Mazlish, Bruce - Yale University Press".
  26. Vitello, Paul (29 November 2016). "Bruce Mazlish, Who Fused Psychoanalysis and History in His Books, Dies at 93". New York Times . Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  27. "Bruce Mazlish: A Tribute". 20 December 2016.
  28. "Professor Emeritus Bruce Mazlish, pioneer in the field of global history, dies at 93: Historian and prolific author served as an MIT professor for more than 50 years". 6 December 2016.
  29. "A memorial service for Bruce Mazlish, Professor of History, Emeritus".
  30. "The American Psyche" (PDF). a global historian's take on matters [].[ permanent dead link ]