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Monday, 8 February 2016

Northumbria University Acquires the Books of the Late Historian Michael O'Brien

Northumbria University has recently acquired the book collection of the late, esteemed historian Michael O’Brien.  This is wonderful news for American Studies, History, and the Humanities Department at Northumbria.

The collection amounts to approximately 3,300 books, occupying 90 metres of shelving space. Books in the collection cover US history, culture, and the American South from the colonial period to the twentieth century.

Michael O'Brien collection.
Michael O’Brien was Professor of American Intellectual History at Jesus College, Cambridge.  In an academic career of great distinction he became a Fellow of the British Academy, was winner of the Bancroft Prize for his seminal work Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860, was twice a nominated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (for History and Biography and Autobiography), and was honoured by a number of American historical societies. Further information on Michael O’Brien’s life and achievements is available from his obituary in the Guardian and at Cambridge University.

Before his death, Michael had discussed disposal of his book collection with Northumbria University Professor in American Studies Brian Ward. Subsequently, the collection was offered to Northumbria University by one of Michael O’Brien’s executors, Joel Isaac, Senior Lecturer in the History of Modern Political Thought, and Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge through contact with both Randall Stephens, Reader in American History, and Brian Ward.  Philip Judd (Collection and Digital Services Librarian, Collection Management, Student and Library Services) has also been instrumental in securing the collection and processing it for the library.

The broad themes of the collection include:

History of the southern states including
o Architecture;
o Cultural issues;
o Education including universities; the education of women;
o Experience of different societal groups, including German and Jewish communities;
o Gender issues;
o General history of the southern states in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries;
o Intellectual history;
o Medicine;
o Politics generally and ‘high’ politics (the politics of parties and state legislatures);
o Race and racism;
o Religious history;
o Social history;
o Urban history.

The Civil War;
Slavery;
Biographies of politicians and people of influence.

In addition, the collection on contains books on twentieth century American history and political biographies of presidents.

The collection includes a small number of multi-volume collections including:

Forty-five volumes of The Adams Papers Project founded in 1954 to edit and publish the writings of the family of John Adams and published by Harvard University Press;
E.W. Knight: A Documentary History of Education in the South (Five volumes), published by the University of North Carolina;
Reprints of nineteenth century books on slavery, published by The Negro Universities Press (a division of Greenwood Press).

The vast majority of the books in the collection are monographs ranging from general histories to books on very specific subjects. All of the books in the collection will be placed on Northumbria’s open shelves.

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