In Memoriam: Alfred F. Young

Al Young was for me an inspiration, a supporter, a critic, and a taskmaster. He was also a perfectionist, and it was tough to measure up to his high standards. So I felt deeply honored that he wrote favorably on my behalf in my bid for tenure and that he invited John Murrin and me to contribute to Beyond the American Revolution. Yet his refusal as an editor to re-read his comments on the prior draft of a manuscript before critiquing a revised version could be frustrating. By his account, he sought to approach each draft “fresh.” In the abstract that strategy made sense, but in practice it sometimes drove me to the brink—especially when my young twins were screaming in the background while Al and I spoke for hours by phone. On more than one occasion, Al admonished John and me for omitting something in a new draft that he had insisted be removed from the previous version. It seemed a bit unfair. Yet Al’s criticisms were always rooted in a fierce desire to get as close as possible to historical truth—not in some perverse exercise of editorial power. Al held himself to standards at least as high as those to which he held others. At the same time, he was enormously generous and happily shared his deep knowledge of early America with the general public and students of all ages as well as with established figures in the field. I feel immensely fortunate to have known him as person and to have learned from him as a historian. Al Young was a master of his craft and a model citizen-scholar.

Gary J. Kornblith, Oberlin College