Richard L. Bushman
Bushman in the 2016 film By Study and Also By Faith
|Born||June 20, 1931|
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard University (A.B., A.M., Ph.D.)|
|Main interests||Colonial America, history of Mormonism|
|Notable works||Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling|
Richard Lyman Bushman (born 20 June 1931) is an American historian and academic who serves as the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University. Bushman taught at Brigham Young University, Harvard University, Boston University, and the University of Delaware before joining the history faculty at Columbia. Bushman is the author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, an important biography of Joseph Smith, and he serves as one of three general editors of the Joseph Smith Papers.
Bushman has been called "one of the most important scholars of American religious history" of the late 20th century, and in 2012 a $3 million donation to the University of Virginia established the Richard Lyman Bushman Chair of Mormon Studies in his honor.
Richard L. Bushman was born on 20 June 1931, in Salt Lake City, Utah. His father, Ted Bushman (1902-1980), was a fashion illustrator, advertiser, and department store executive, and his mother, Dorothy Bushman (née Lyman; 1908-1995), was a secretary and homemaker. Bushman's family moved to Portland, Oregon, when he was a young child.
After graduating from high school in 1949, Bushman spent two years as an LDS missionary in the northeastern United States. After completing his missionary service, he matriculated at Harvard University, graduating in 1955 with an A.B. magna cum laude in history. Bushman married fellow historian Claudia Lauper Bushman in August 1955 and the couple raised six children. Bushman continued at Harvard as a graduate student, earning A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in the History of American Civilization, where he studied with distinguished early American historian Bernard Bailyn. While still a graduate student he was awarded the Sheldon Fellowship to work on his dissertation in London.
Bushman first taught at Brigham Young University from 1960 to 1968 but two of those years he spent out on a doctoral fellowship to study history and psychology at Brown University. In 1967, he won the Bancroft Prize for his published dissertation, From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765. Bushman was awarded a year-long fellowship in 1969 at Harvard's Charles Warren Center. At Harvard he was recruited to teach by Boston University. In 1977, Bushman transferred from Boston University to the University of Delaware to work with material culture at the Winterthur Museum. In an interview with Jed Woodworth, a historian, Bushman's "major work on refinement and gentility dated from those years, which included a year-long fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution." In 1989, Bushman was asked to teach American Colonial history at Columbia University. During his time at Columbia he completed year-long fellowships at the Davis Center at Princeton, the National Humanities Center, and the Huntington Library. It was at the Huntington Library in 1997 that Bushman started his biography of Joseph Smith entitled Rough Stone Rolling. Bushman decided to retire from Columbia in 2001 to work full-time on the Joseph Smith biography. Bushman was recognized by Columbia University and become the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History in 1992. From 2008 to 2011, Bushman served as the first Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University and held a Huntington Library fellowship. In 2012, the University of Virginia established the Richard Lyman Bushman Chair of Mormon studies in the Department of Religious Studies. The chair was funded by a $3 million endowment by anonymous donors.
Bushman's scholarship includes studies of early American social, cultural, and political history, American religious history, and the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). In 1968, Bushman's From Puritan to Yankee: Character and Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765 won the Bancroft Prize, an award given by the trustees of Columbia University for the year's best book on American history. Bushman has also received the Phi Alpha Theta prize, and Evans Biography Awards, administered by the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies at Utah State University. He published Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, which was awarded best biography from the Mormon History Association in 1985. Bushman has held Guggenheim, Huntington, National Humanities Center, and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships; and served as president of the Mormon History Association (1985-1986). Bushman was honored at the January 2011 annual meeting of the American Historical Association (MHA) where a breakout session entitled A Retrospective on the Scholarship of Richard Bushman was heavily attended.
Bushman's work, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling focuses heavily on new Mormon history. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling sold over 100,000 copies and gathered many awards including the Evans Biography Award and the Mormon History Association's annual 2006 Best Book award. According to an article by Larry Gordon, LA Times writer, the initial response to the biography has "garnered many positive reviews, although some critics said it uncomfortably straddled reverence and logic."
Bushman is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He interrupted his undergraduate studies at Harvard to serve as a missionary in New England and Atlantic Canada where he overcame doubts about the existence of God and became convinced that the Book of Mormon was right. He later held various positions within the LDS Church, including Seminary teacher, bishop, stake president, and stake patriarch. On his decision to study the religion he is affiliated with Bushman replied, "Would you say that the only people who can do black studies are not blacks, or that to do women's studies you have to be a non-woman? You get all sorts of people who have deep personal commitments to a subject they teach, and that has its advantages."