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Ted Widmer

Affiliated Scholar

Ted Widmer is director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, one of America’s premier centers for research into early American history. Between 2001 and 2006 he was the inaugural director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, where he created numerous programs designed to enliven the teaching of American history and politics to diverse groups, ranging from Muslim college students in historically anti-American regions of the world to elementary students in under-financed public school districts of the eastern shore of Maryland.

Specifically, he designed the prototype for the American Studies Institute, a collaborative project with the State Department that brings young Muslims to the United States for summer programs, and he created the George Washington Book Prize, one of the most lucrative literary awards in the United States, which offers $50,000 to the author of the best book on the founding era (co-sponsored by Mount Vernon and the Gilder Lehrman Institute). He is the author of Martin Van Buren (2005), Campaigns: A Century of Presidential Races (with Alan Brinkley, 2001), and Young America: The Flowering of Democracy in New York City (1999). He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The New York Observer, and The American Scholar.

Widmer’s research concentrates on U.S. history particularly presidential history, the colonial period, and the 19th and the 20th centuries. He is also doing scholarly work on how U.S. history shapes electoral politics and on the history of anti-Americanism around the world.

Between 1997 and 2001 he was a foreign policy speechwriter and senior adviser to President Clinton. Previously he taught at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D., A.M. and A.B degrees.

Major Works:


  • Widmer, Ted ed. American Speeches: Lincoln to Clinton: Political Oratory from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Clinton. Library of America, 2006.
  • Widmer, Ted ed. American Speeches: Revolution to Civil War: Political Oratory from the Revolution to the Civil War. Library of America, 2006.
  • Martin Van Buren: The American President Series. Times Books Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2005.
  • Campaigns: A Century of Presidential Races. (with Alan Brinkley) Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 2001.
  • Young America: The Flowering of Democracy in New York City. Oxford University Press, 1999.


  • "So help me God: what all fifty-four inaugural addresses, taken as one long book, tell us about American history." American Scholar. Vol. 74, Iss. 1, pg. 29-42. January 1st, 2005.
  • "Into the swamp: How will the Atlantic fare when it leaves the capital of dissent?" American Scholar. Vol. 74, Iss. 3, pg. 106-110. June 22nd, 2005.

Appearances: NPR, CSPAN, CBS, Al Franken, Washington Journal