Crane Brinton

Biography of Crane Brinton

Clarence Crane Brinton (Winsted, Connecticut, 1898 - Cambridge, Massachusetts, September 7, 1968) was an American historian of France, as well as an historian of ideas. His most famous work, The Anatomy of Revolution, compared the dynamics of revolutionary movements to the progress of fever.

Born in Winsted, Connecticut, his family soon moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, where he grew up. Brinton attended the public schools there before entering Harvard University in 1915. His excellent academic performance enabled him to win a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University. Receiving a Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil.) degree there in 1923, Brinton began teaching at Harvard University that same year, becoming full professor in 1942 and remaining at Harvard until his death. He served as president of the American Historical Association, the professional association of historians, as well as the Society for French Historical Studies.

For many years he taught a popular course at Harvard known informally to his students as "Breakfast with Brinton."

Brinton was known for his witty, convivial, and urbane writing and commentary, and was fluent in French. During WWII he was for a time Chief of Research and Analysis in London in the Office of Strategic Services. He was also Fire Marshal for St. Paul's Cathedral in London, which withstood the Blitz with minor damages. After the war, he was commended by the United States Army for "Conspicuous Contribution to the Liberation of France" and was Chairman of the Society of Fellows at Harvard in the late 1940s. Among other figures, Fellows during that period included McGeorge Bundy and Ray Cline, who were quite influential in national security and intelligence.

In 1968, Crane Brinton testified at the Fulbright Senate hearings on the Vietnam war as to the nature of the Vietnamese opposition. He died in September 1968.

Brinton wrote a review of Carroll Quigley's book Tragedy and Hope. Among those his scholarship inspired were Samuel P. Huntington, who cited Brinton many times in his book Political Order in Changing Societies, and Robert Struble, Jr., in his Treatise on Twelve Lights.

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