Klein, Milton M. 1917–2004

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Klein, Milton M. 1917–2004

(Milton Martin Klein)


Born August 15, 1917, in New York, NY; died June 10, 2004, in Knoxville, TN, from a long illness; son of Edward and Margaret Klein; married Margaret Gordon, August 25, 1963; children: Edward Gordon, Peter Gordon. Education: City College (now of the City University of New York), M.S.S., 1937, M.S. Ed., 1939; Columbia University, Ph.D., 1954.


High school social studies teacher in New York, NY, 1938-41, 1947-57; Columbia University, New York, lecturer in history, 1954-58; Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY, professor of history and head of department, 1958-62, dean of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1962-66; State University of New York College at Fredonia, dean for graduate studies and research, 1966-69; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, professor, 1969-77, alumni distinguished service professor of history, 1977-85, University Historian, 1988-97, professor emeritus, 1985-2001. Fulbright professor at University of Canterbury, 1962; Walter E. Meyer visiting professor at New York University, 1967-77. Military service: U.S. Army Air Forces, 1942-46; received Army commendation ribbon and oak leaf cluster. U.S. Air Force Reserve, 1946-77; became lieutenant colonel.


American Association of University Professors (member of national council, 1977-80), American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, American Society for Legal History (secretary, 1975-77, vice president, 1978-79, president, beginning 1980), Conference on British Studies, Southeastern Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (member of board of directors, beginning 1978), Columbia University Seminar on Early American History (associate, 1967, chair, 1971-72), Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Alpha Theta, Omicron Delta Kappa.


Ford Foundation fellowship, 1955-56; Lilly Foundation fellowship, summer, 1961; American Philosophical Society grant, summer, 1973; outstanding teacher award from University of Alumni Association, 1974; Kerr History Prize from New York State Historical Association, 1975, and prize from American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 1976, both for "New York Lawyers and the Coming of the American Revolution."


Social Studies for the Academically Talented Student, National Education Association (Washington, DC), 1960.

(Editor) The Independent Reflector, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1963.

New York in the American Revolution, New York State American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (Albany, NY), 1974.

The Politics of Diversity: Essays in the History of Colonial New York, Kennikat (Port Washington, NY), 1974.

(Editor) New York: The Centennial Years, Kennikat (Port Washington, NY), 1976.

(Editor, with Leo Hershkowitz) Courts and Law in Early New York, Kennikat (Port Washington, NY), 1978.

(Editor, with Ronald W. Howard) The Twilight of British Rule in Revolutionary America: The New York Letter Book of General James Robertson, 1780-1783, New York State Historical Association (Cooperstown, NY), 1983.

The Constitution in the Public Imagination, East Carolina University Press (Greenville, NC), 1988.

The American Whig: William Livingston of New York, Garland (New York, NY), 1990, reprinted, 1993.

(Editor, with Richard D. Brown and John B. Hench) The Republican Synthesis Revisited: Essays in Honor of George Athan Billias, American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, MA), 1992.

Volunteer Movements: Vignettes of the History of the University of Tennessee, 1794-1994, University of Tennessee (Knoxville, TN), 1996.

(Editor, with Jacob Ernest Cooke) North America in Colonial Times: An Encyclopedia for Students, Charles Scribner (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor) The Empire State: A History of New York, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2001.

An Amazing Grace: John Thornton and the Clapham Sect, University Press of the South (New Orleans, LA), 2004.

General editor of "A History of the American Colonies," a thirteen-volume series, Scribner and KTO Press, beginning 1973. Contributor to history and literary journals.


Milton M. Klein was a writer, educator, and historian. Born August 15, 1917, in New York City, he studied history and education at City College, now known as City University of New York, before going on to earn his doctorate at Columbia University. He taught at both the high school and university level, eventually taking a position on the faculty of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he served as both a professor of history and as the University Historian. He officially retired in 2001 but continued at the university in a research capacity until shortly before his death on October 10, 2004, from a prolonged illness. Klein's primary areas of academic interest included American history and the history of New York, with a particular focus on the Revolutionary period, early American politics, and the United States Constitution. Over the course of his career, he wrote or edited more than a dozen books.

North America in Colonial Times: An Encyclopedia for Students, which Klein edited with Jacob Ernest Cooke, was geared toward middle-grade and high-school audiences to be used as a supplement to standard textbooks. The volume includes information on a range of events, places, and prominent individuals of the American colonial period. It covers the cultural and social aspects of the times and describes life for the Indians in North America during this period as well. A reviewer for Booklist found the encyclopedia "attractively designed and easy to use," citing its convenient format and cross-referencing.

The Empire State: A History of New York, for which Klein served as editor, gathers the contributions of six writers into seven sections, each of which advances the progress of tracking the state's history from its earliest inception at the start of the seventeenth century. Nancy Kwak, writing for the New York History Net Web site, dubbed the book "a well-synthesized, comprehensive, rich narrative of New York State's history."

Klein offers readers the first modern biography of John Thornton with An Amazing Grace: John Thornton and the Clapham Sect. In the process of researching the subject, he delved into the archives that hold Thornton's works, unearthing a wealth of information about the prominent eighteenth-century philanthropist, including his active participation in and import to that period's evangelical movement. Klein tracks Thornton's progress as he gradually built up an impressive fortune, a combination of earnings and inheritance, that eventually ranked as the second largest in Europe. Much of his money went toward promoting evangelical beliefs, as he gave everything from outright gifts of cash to endowments meant to support various parish pulpits, not just in England but all over Europe. Caleb J.D. Maskell, writing for Church History, found Klein's work to be "an important contribution to the study of the rise of evangelicalism," going on to add that it "should certainly be read by anyone with an interest in the period."

Klein once wrote: "What I have sought in my historical writing is to correct the imbalance in the literature of our colonial past which makes New England and the South the sole progenitors of our American tradition. I have tried to arouse interest in the Middle Colonies and states and to demonstrate how much later America owes to developments during the colonial period in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

"I am also convinced that unless professional historians address their writings to the general public as well as to other historians, they will have missed their obligation to educate and inform the public of our heritage. All too often historians write for other historians. How then can a sense of history be conveyed to the general public and Americans be made aware of their identity?"



Booklist, March 1, 1999, review of North America in Colonial Times: An Encyclopedia for Students, p. 1251.

Church History, September 1, 2005, Caleb J.D. Maskell, review of An Amazing Grace: John Thornton and the Clapham Sect, p. 626.


New York History Net, http://www.nyhistory.com/ (May 11, 2008), Nancy Kwak, review of The Empire State: A History of New York.

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