Stephens, H. Morse (Henry Morse), 1857-1919

Alternative names
Birth 1857-10-03
Death 1919-04-16

Biographical notes:

Professor of history, Cornell University.

From the description of Henry Morse Stephens pictures, [ca.1894-1902]. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 64073764


Henry Morse Stephens, professor of history and founder of the University of California Extension, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on October 3, 1857. He attended Radley College School, then studied with a private tutor while in France. He later entered Haileybury College, which he left after five years to go to Balliol College, Oxford, where he took a "first" in History in treats. He married in 1880, shortly after completing his studies at the University. He coached at Oxford for a short time, leaving to complete research for his book on the history of the French Revolution. During this period he also wrote many articles for various weekly newspaper, reviewing books, exhibit, concerts, opera and theatre. After a serious breakdown of his health he moved to the country and traveled extensively in Europe, particularly in France. At this time he wrote Albuquerque, edited a two volume work on the orators of the French Revolution, and published Portugal as part of the series of the History of the Nations. He returned to Oxford to work on India, and gave his first history lectures, which were immediately successful. He soon joined the university extension lectures, offering history courses in southern England and on the Isle of Wight. He also became an editor of "India", a new monthly, and at this time accepted a position as lecturer in Indian history at Cambridge.

Invited by Cornell University, Stephens came to America in 1894, as professor of modern European and English history. While in Ithaca he formed a devoted group of students, founded the Kipling Club and an American version of the famed British Savage Club.

At the invitation of the president of the University of California, Benjamin Ide Wheeler, a former colleague at Cornell, Shepherd became Sather professor of history in Berkeley in 1902. He was able to put his experience of extension education to good advantage as director of the University Extension from 1902-1909. Virtually the Extension's sole lecturer in the early days, Stephens spent a great part of hit working week traveling over all of California, giving courses in history supplemented by detailed syllabi.

Stephens found a congenial group in the Bohemian Club, of which he was an active member, and for which he wrote his play, St. Patrick at Tara. He enjoyed summers in the Grove from early May through July, often its sole inhabitant.

He was renowned as a stimulating teacher, attracted brilliant students, gave generously of his time and assistance, read voraciously and produced solid scholarly works. Stephens particularly emphasized the importance of using original source material for research, stressing historical accuracy based on fact. Because of this passion for accurate source material he sent many of his students to Europe, and even instigated scholarships for research, especially in Spain, where he had many transcripts made from hitherto unavailable archives of Seville and Madrid.

Stephens was very vocal in expressing his opinions on the importance of acquiring the Bancroft Library collection, and for many years was intimately connected with its preservation and with the housing of its resources.

Stephens was active in the American Historical Association, and engineered meetings and lectures for the Pan-American History Conference held during the San Francisco International Exhibition in 1915.

Stephens died suddenly on April 16, 1919, while returning from the funeral of Phoebe Apperson Hearst in San Francisco.

From the guide to the H. Morse Stephens Papers, [ca. 1890-1919], (The Bancroft Library.)


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  • College teachers
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  • Korea (as recorded)
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  • India (as recorded)