April, 2004
James J. Martin: The Passing of a Great Historian

By Mark Weber
Director, Institute for Historical Review


One of the most prominent and influential of American revisionist historians, James J. Martin, has died. He was 87. He died on April 4, 2004, at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Jim Martin was an exceptionally discerning and productive historian, gifted with an impressive memory and a keen and skeptical eye. During the intellectually barren decades of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, he was one of the few American scholars who kept alive the flame of authentic independent historiography. He knew personally the outstanding revisionist scholars of that era, including Harry Elmer Barnes, Charles Tansill and Francis Nielson.

Martin was born on September 18, 1916. After graduation from the University of New Hampshire in 1942, he studied at the University of Michigan, where he earned a Master's degree in 1945, and a doctorate in history in 1949.

His teaching career, which spanned 25 years, included teaching posts at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb), San Francisco State College, Deep Springs College, and Rampart College.

Probably the greatest of Dr. Martin's scholarly works is American Liberalism and World Politics, 1931-1941, a two-volume classic published in 1964 by Devin Adair that documents the transformation of liberal opinion in the US during the 1930s from a policy of peace and neutrality to one of interventionism and war. Harry Elmer Barnes called this work "the most formidable achievement of World War II Revisionism." Clyde R. Miller, journalist and educator, praised it as "probably the most massive contribution to the study of twentieth-century journalism and political propaganda," and "a masterpiece of research, organization and forceful exposition." 

He also wrote Men Against the State: The Expositers of Individualist Anarchism in America, first published in 1953 and reprinted in 1970. His 360-page work, The Man Who Invented 'Genocide': The Public Career and Consequences of Raphael Lemkin, was published in 1984 by the Institute for Historical Review in both hardcover and softcover editions. His final book, An American Adventure in Bookburning in the Style of 1918, came out in 1989.

Martin was also the author of three volumes of collected essays: Revisionist Viewpoints: Essays in a Dissident Historical Tradition, published in 1971 and again in 1977; The Saga of Hog Island and Other Essays in Inconvenient History, which came out in 1977; and, Beyond Pearl Harbor: Essays on Some Consequences of the Crisis in the Pacific in 1941, which appeared in 1983.

He was the author of some 200 articles, reviews and essays, which appeared in dozens of periodicals. He contributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and was a three-time contributor to the Dictionary of American Biography.

For years he edited the books and booklets of the Ralph Myles publishing enterprise, which specialized in works of revisionist history and libertarian thought. (Several years ago its considerable stock of books and booklets was acquired by Noontide Press, an affiliate of the IHR, which now sells and distributes them.)

Jim Martin was a staunch friend and supporter of the Institute for Historical Review. He addressed its First Conference in 1979, as well as the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Eleventh IHR conferences.

Until his death, he was a member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of the IHR's Journal of Historical Review, and over the years a number of his essays and reviews appeared in its pages.

He was married for some years, but he had no children.

I will long remember Jim Martin with gratitude, not only because he was an important influence on my life and outlook, but also as a colleague and friend for more than 20 years. On numerous occasions he welcomed me to his modest home, and I appreciate that we stayed in touch by letter and telephone until the final months of his life.

Jim had little patience for ignorance or foolishness, and was sometimes curt and acerbic. But behind his brusque demeanor was a great mind, a courageous spirit, and a generous heart.


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