Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Jerold L. Simmons


In a public career spanning forty years, South Carolinian John C. Calhoun served in a variety of offices from state legislator to United States vice president. A central antebellum figure, he presents something of an enigma. Historically, Calhoun has been identified with the South and slavery, both of which he defended vigorously. Yet his significant, if challenging, contributions to American political and constitutional thought have proven to be his most enduring legacy. In the century and a half since his death, he has been the focus of a vast number of historical works ranging from multi-volume biographies to narrowly-focused interpretive articles, many of which are passionately, if not always carefully, argued. Filled with reverence or denunciation, the extensive Calhoun historiography has become a significant story in itself. The purpose of this study is an examination of this long trail of works. The sheer enormity of studies made an inclusive approach to this historiographical analysis all but impossible, for aside from the large number of books and articles specific to Calhoun, he is also discussed in many biographies of his contemporaries, in numerous political and constitutional studies, and in countless American antebellum histories. With only rare exceptions, therefore, the fifty works herein analyzed represent only the major published works specific to Calhoun. While examined individually and in general chronological order, the studies are viewed in relation to the various schools of historical thought which have developed regarding the controversial Carolinian. Although the primary source collections and Calhoun’s own political treatises are examined in a separate chapter, all works addressing special topics are fit into the overall chronological pattern.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of History and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1999, John Gregory Jacobsen

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