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James G. Basker

Richard Gilder Professor of Literary History

Professor Basker came to Barnard College in 1987, having taught at Harvard University for seven years. He began teaching in the Columbia University graduate school in 1990. Since 1997, he has also been President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City.

A specialist in the 18th century, his interests span the fields of history and literature, including the Black Atlantic and the history of slavery and abolition, the life and works of Johnson, the history of print culture, and women writers. His publications include Tobias Smollett, Critic and Journalist (1988, winner of a 1989 Choice Award); Tradition in Transition: Women Writers, Marginal Texts, and the Eighteenth-Century Canon, ed. with Alvaro Ribeiro, S.J. (1996); Samuel Johnson in the Mind of Thomas Jefferson (1999); a modern edition of The Critical Review, or Annals of Literature 1756-1763 (2002); and Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery 1660-1810 (2002). A former Rhodes Scholar and recipient of NEH grants, he has been awarded fellowships at the American Antiquarian Society, Yale University, and Cambridge University. He is on the Editorial Board of The Age of Johnson and is an elected fellow of the Pierpont Morgan Library and the Society of American Historians. He is currently working on a book about Johnson, Boswell, and the problem of slavery and editing a series of reprints of antislavery texts from the period 1760-1820.

Selected Publications

Early American Abolitionists: A Collection of Anti-Slavery Writings 1760-1820, editor (New York: Gilder Lehrman Institute, 2005; paperback edition 2007)

Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery 1660-1810, editor (Yale University Press, 2002; paperback edition 2005).

The Critical Review, or Annals of Literature 1756-1763. A modern edition, editor (London: Pickering & Chatto Publishers , 2002)

Samuel Johnson in the Mind of Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville: The Johnsonians, 1999)

Tradition in Transition: Women Writers, Marginal Texts, and the Eighteenth-Century Canon, co-editor with Alvaro Ribeiro, S.J. (Oxford University Press, 1996)

Tobias Smollett, Critic and Journalist (University of Delaware Press, 1988). Winner of a 1989 Choice Award.

Academic Focus: 

Anglo-American history & literature
Slavery, resistance, & abolition
Eighteenth-century journalism
Samuel Johnson and his circle

Contact: 

408C Barnard Hall
212.531.3732 (preferred)
212.854.2107 (office)
jbasker@barnard.edu
jgbassist@gmail.com

Office Hours: 

Spring 2014
M 4-6

Education: 

D.Phil., Oxford University
M.A., Cambridge University
A.B., Harvard University

In the News

American Antislavery Writings: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation compiles fiction, non-fiction, poems, sermons, plays, children’s books, and more.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History receives the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama.