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In the Shadow of the Founders: The Meaning, and Significance, of "Generations” in American History

It is a cliché to remark that the lessons of the past remain relevant, and that many of the issues faced by past generations continue to haunt our societies to this day. Yet even more than most, Professor John Demos has spent his professional career illustrating the link between the past and the present in light of the early American experience. His vast research brilliantly demonstrates the inextricable link between the social currents of yesteryear and the societal trends of tomorrow for American individuals and American society. Moreover, by particularly focusing on the family unit in his historical scholarship, Demos explores an area of history that often receives less attention than it deserves; his focus on families and communities instills his research with a sense of perspective and outlook that is often lacking in historical narratives. The result is a body of work impressive in its depth and notable for its contribution to a greater understanding of early American life.

John Demos was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard College, and received his graduate training at Oxford, at the University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard. He has taught at Brandeis and at Yale, where he is currently Samuel Knight Professor of American History. His books include A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (1970), Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (1982), for which he received the 1983 Bancroft Prize, and Past, Present, and Personal: The Family and the Life Course in American History (1986). Demos’ The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America (1994) received the National Book Award in 1994.

The lecture by John Demos is jointly sponsored by the Athenaeum, Gould Center at Claremont McKenna College, and the history department at Pomona College.