Beeman, Richard R. 1942–

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Beeman, Richard R. 1942–

(Richard Roy Beeman)


Born May 16, 1942, in Seattle, WA; son of David E. (in business) and Dorothy Beeman; married Pamela Butler (a nurse), December 26, 1964; children: Kristin, Joshua. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1964; College of William and Mary, M.A., 1965; University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1968. Politics: Democrat.


Home—Swarthmore, PA. Office—Dean of the College, 120 Logan Hall, 249 S. 36th St., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, educator. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, assistant professor, 1968-73, associate professor of history, 1973-82, professor, 1982—, chair, Department of History, 1986-87, 1988-91, associate dean, School of Arts and Sciences, 1991-95, dean, School of Arts and Sciences, 1998—. American Quarterly, editor, 1983-86; Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies, director, 1980-85; visiting professor University of Hull, England, 1976-77, and, Colby College, 1979-80.


Organization of American Historians, Southern Historical Association.


National Book Award Nominee, 1974; National Endowment for the Humanities, Senior Fellowship, 1989-90.


The Old Dominion and the New Nation, 1788-1801, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1972.

Patrick Henry, a Biography, McGraw (New York, NY), 1975.

The Evolution of the Southern Backcountry: A Case Study of Lunenburg County, Virginia, 1746-1832, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1984.

(Coeditor with Stephen Botein and Edward C. Carter II) Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1987.

The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

Contributor to scholarly journals.


Richard R. Beeman is an American historian who focuses on the history of Virginia and on American politics of the eighteenth century. Dean of the college of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, Beeman has also written several books on history, from a biography of Patrick Henry to the 2004 title The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America. The latter is, according to Humanities and Social Sciences Online contributor Craig Yirush, "an impressive and wide-ranging synthesis of politics in the major colonies and regions of eighteenth-century America." Beeman focuses on the relationship between regular citizens of the time and their political leaders. In this context, the author examines how politicians did their work in the early years of the American experiment. Yirush further explained: "For Beeman, the republican ideal of the good ruler is central to understanding political behavior in early modern Anglo-America." Moreover, as Yirush went on to comment, "Beeman argues that conditions in America gave the traditional elements of the classical republican paradigm less salience than in England." The experience in Virginia is central to Beeman's analysis and exposition. Even here, where power and class reigned, politicians were still forced to court the voters, as Beeman demonstrates. Pennsylvania and its political development also proves important to his study. Here, the author shows that the dominant Quaker theology of the region impelled politicians into a more egalitarian approach to their constituencies. Beeman also investigates political development in rural or backcountry regions and in three major urban areas: Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Historian reviewer Edward Countryman observed: "Beneath the variety, or out of it, Richard R. Beeman finds convergence toward a distinctively American political style." The thrust of the work is thus to demonstrate that democratic ideals had already taken root in the American colonies before the Revolution.

Yirush felt that The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America was "a valuable addition to the scholarly literature on colonial politics." History: Review of New Books contributor Frank A. Cassell had higher praise for the book, terming it "a work of summary and synthesis that masterfully covers an enormously complicated subject." Similarly, Journal of Southern History reviewer Jonathan Beagle found the work a "fine synthesis of existing scholarship."

Beeman told CA: "I began working, quite by accident, on aspects of the history of Virginia in 1965, and I have never exhausted my interest in the subject. My one consistent concern in my Virginia research and writing has been to illuminate the larger social world of the old Dominion through a study of its political forms. I suspect that my interest in the social dimensions of political behavior will eventually impel me to undertake a larger study of the political culture of the eighteenth-and nineteenth-century South."



Historian, December 22, 2006, Edward Countryman, review of The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America, p. 826.

History: Review of New Books, September 22, 2004, Frank A. Cassell, review of The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America, p. 15.

Journal of Southern History, November 1, 2005, Jonathan Beagle, review of The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America, p. 871.


Department of History, University of Pennsylvania Web site, (April 14, 2008), "Richard R. Beeman."

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, (April 14, 2008), Craig Yirush, review of The Varieties of Political Experience in Eighteenth-Century America.