Morse, Richard (1922–2001)

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Morse, Richard (1922–2001)

Richard McGee Morse (June 26, 1922–April 17, 2001), pensador and pioneering historian, was a unique figure among the first Latin Americanists in the postwar United States. After studying literature, Spain, and Spanish America at Princeton University, Morse took his doctorate at Columbia University, where he first taught and also led in revising and teaching its contemporary western civilization core curriculum. He left to found the University of Puerto Rico's Caribbean studies institute, and then chaired the new history department at State University of New York Stony Brook, taught at Yale and Stanford Universities, and headed the Wilson Center's Latin American program. A key leader in early Latin Americanist institutions by the 1960s, Morse nonetheless criticized their trends as deracinated, instrumentalist, and narrow. He advocated broad, humanistic training, literature, and history practiced as transdisciplinary study. His noted analyses of Latin American political thought and practice emphasized their sense of being part of a larger, natural, moral order, their post-colonial search for charismatic political legitimacy, and their perception of the state as an integrating, patrimonial, symbolic center. His foundational urban work, begun with his "biography" of São Paulo, turned on cities' critical role as cultural and political foci, expressing and shaping their communities and countries. Both the political and the urban studies were interwoven with his abiding preoccupation with Latin American culture. He argued for the humane character of Latin American civilization, beholden to a vital matrix first conceived in seventeenth-century, Catholic Iberia. He suggested that this civilization served as an illuminating contrast to the oppressive, alienated, mechanistic qualities he found in Anglo-American modernity.

See alsoCities and Urbanization .


Primary Works

From Community to Metropolis: A Biography of São Paulo, Brazil. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1958.

"The Heritage of Latin America." In The Founding of New Societies: Studies in the History of the United States, Latin America, South Africa, Canada, and Australia, edited by Louis Hartz, Kenneth D. McRae, Richard Morse, et al. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1964.

"The Care and Grooming of Latin American Historians, Or, Stop the Computers I Want to Get Off." In Latin America in Transition: Problems of Training and Research, edited by Stanley R. Ross. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1970.

"A Prolegomenon to Latin American Urban History." Hispanic American Historical Review 52, no. 3 (August 1972): 359-394.

"The Development of Urban Systems in the Americas in the 19th Century." Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 17, no. 1 (1975): 4-26.

El espejo de Próspero: Un estudio de la dialéctica del Nuevo Mundo, translated by S. Mastrangelo. México: Siglo Veintiuno, 1982.

New World Soundings, Culture, and Ideology in the Americas. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.

"The Multiverse of Latin American Identity, c. 1920–c. 1970." In The Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. 10, edited by Leslie Bethell. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Secondary Works

Borges, Dain. "Introduction: A Field Guide to Richard Morse's Brazil." Luso-Brazilian Review 32, no. 2 (Winter 1995): 3-14.

Needell, Jeffrey D. "Obituary: Richard M. Morse (1922–2001)." Hispanic American Historical Review 81, no. 3-4 (Aug.-Nov. 2001): 759-763.

                                     Jeffrey D. Needell