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David M. Potter (6 December 1910 – 18 February 1971) was an American historian of the South. He was born in Augusta, Georgia, and graduated from Emory University in 1932. At Yale he worked with Ulrich Bonnell Phillips. His earned his Ph.D. in 1940 and published Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis in 1942. As professor of history at Yale (1942-1961) and Stanford (1961-71) he directed numerous dissertations, and served on numerous editorial and professional board. He was a pioneer in sponsoring the history of women.

Potter won, posthumously, the 1977 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976), an in-depth narrative and analysis of the causes of the Civil War. His main achievement was to put the history of the South in national perspective. He rejected the conflict models of Charles Beard and emphasized the depth of consensus on American values. He considered himself a conservative.


  • His most important book, finished and edited by Don Fehrenbacher, was The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976).
  • Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis new introduction by Daniel W. Crofts, Louisiana State U. Pr., 1995. 408 pp.
  • People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character (1954)
  • The South and the Sectional Conflict (1968)
  • "American Women and the American Character" in American Character and Culture in a Changing World: Some Twentieth-century Perspectives (Greenwood Press, 1979): 209-225.
  • History and American Society: Essays of David M. Potter. ed. by Don E. Fehrenbacher, Oxford U. Press, 1973. 422 pp.
  • "The Historian's Use of Nationalism and Vice Versa," American Historical Review, Vol. 67, No. 4 (Jul., 1962), pp. 924-950 in JSTOR
  • "An Appraisal of Fifteen Years of the Journal of Southern History, 1935-1949," Journal of Southern History, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Feb., 1950), pp. 25-32 in JSTOR
  • "The Historical Development of Eastern-Southern Freight Rate Relationships," Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 12, No. 3, (Summer, 1947), pp. 416-448 in JSTOR
  • "Horace Greeley and Peaceable Secession," Journal of Southern History, Vol. 7, No. 2 (May, 1941), pp. 145-159 in JSTOR


  • Barney, William L. "Potter's the Impending Crisis: a Capstone and a Challenge." Reviews in American History 1976 4(4): 551-557. JSTOR
  • Brogan, Denis. “David M. Potter.” In Pastmasters: Some Essays on American Historians edited by Marcus Cunliffe and Robin W. Winks, (1969) pp. 316—44
  • Collins, Robert M. "David Potter's People of Plenty and the Recycling of Consensus History," Reviews in American History 16 (June 1988): 321-35. [ in JSTOR
  • Fredrickson, George M. "Two Southern Historians." American Historical Review 1970 75(5): 1387-1392. in JSTOR
  • Johannsen, Robert W. "David Potter, Historian and Social Critic: a Review Essay." Civil War History 1974 20(1): 35-44. ISSN 0009-8078
  • Temperley, Howard. "David M. Potter", in Robert Allen Rutland, ed., Clio's Favorites: Leading Historians of the United States, 1945-2000, U of Missouri Press (2000), pp. 138-155.
  • Thomas Winter. "Potter, David Morris";American National Biography Online 2000.

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