Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943


In Memoriam: Alfred F. Young

When I ventured to embark on graduate study in history, at the age of twenty-nine with two small children, Al Young was the person who liked my work on Dutchess County and advocated it to Bill Towner, editor of the William and Mary Quarterly.

Again, after I was blacklisted and poked my nose above the trench to recapture a legitimate voice as an historian, it was Al who sat next to me in a long afternoon of conversation in southeastern Montana, and conversed with me as to ways and means.

Finally, and most dramatically, Al had saved two very incomplete essays I wrote before giving up my quest for a teaching job in history, and these became the basis for an essay by David Waldstreicher and myself published in the William and Mary Quarterly, where my Dutchess County material had first appeared.1

Thus I owe a very great deal to Al and cherish the memory of his friendship.

At the same time, I believe his historiography must be evaluated like that of anyone else.

Like Howard Zinn, Al was a product of the Popular Front atmosphere of the late 1930s. He believed in “the people”: his most recent, co-edited publication begins by crediting the people as first movers in the American Revolution. But what about the slaves and Native Americans whose well-being and quest for liberty may have been, all things considered, set back by the American Revolution? Al recognized the facts but, it seems to me, without surrendering the notion of a “people’s movement” for independence.

I cherish the idea of recognizing friends for their lifework before their deaths. Many of us were able to do so for Al at an OAH panel in Boston many years ago. But such confession of love tugs against the need to analyse the work of a fellow historian as we would any other’s. Surely, we can do both.

Staughton Lynd, Independent Scholar

Source: personal correspondence. Published with permission.

1 Staughton Lynd and David Waldstreicher, “Free Trade, Sovereignty, and Slavery: Toward an Economic Interpretation of American Independence,” WMQ, 3d ser., 68 (October 2011), 597–630. Lynd’s WMQ article on Dutchess County, “Who Should Rule at Home? Dutchess County, New York in the American Revolution,” appeared in 3d ser., 18 (July 1961), 330–59.