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Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Pauline Maier

William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor of American History, MIT

The lecture will focus on the subject of Pauline Maier's book, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, which was published by Simon and Schuster in October 2010 and is the first narrative history of the process by which the Constitution's fate was decided, state by state, in specially elected conventions. Why, despite the existence of a full shelf of books on the federal Convention in Philadelphia, was this book not written long before? What's new? And--- last but not least--- why were the delegates from Maine (still, of course, a part of Massachusetts) so important at the Massachusetts ratifying convention?


Pauline Maier is the William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor of American History at MIT. She was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota; went to Radcliffe College (Class of 1960), and, after a year as a Fulbright scholar in London, went on to get a Ph.D. in History at Harvard in 1968. She was on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she was the Robinson-Edwards Professor of History, before going to MIT in 1978. She has served on the boards of several journals and historical organizations, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and holds honorary doctorates from Regis College (1987) and Williams College (1993).

As a scholar, she writes mainly on the American Revolution and its heritage. She has published numerous articles and several books, starting with From Resistance to Revolution: American Radicals and the Development of Intercolonial Opposition to Britain (Knopf, New York, 1972), The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams (Knopf, New York, 1980), and a junior-high-school textbook, The American People: A History (D.C. Heath, Lexington, Mass., and Toronto, 1986). She is perhaps best known for American Scripture, Making the Declaration of Independence (Knopf, New York, 1997), which was on the New York Times Book Review editors' choice list of the eleven best books, fiction and nonfiction, of 1997. More recently, she wrote the first eight chapters, covering American history from its beginning to 1800, of a textbook, Inventing America, which is distinguished by the serious attention it gives to the history of science and technology and, more generally, innovation in the history of the American people. The project was sponsored by the Sloan Foundation, and the final book -- the work of four historians, including MIT’s Merritt Roe Smith, Alexander Keyssar of Harvard, and Daniel Kevles of Yale -- was published in the summer of 2002 by the W.W. Norton Company; a second edition came out in 2006. Simon and Schuster published her most recent book,Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, in October 2010.

Professor Maier was a consultant and prominent "talking head" for several PBS television series, including Liberty! The American Revolution (1997), Biography of America, Primary Sources (2000 and 2001), and Benjamin Franklin (2002). She has also appeared on several programs on the History Channel.

Assigned Reading

Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (Simon & Schuster, 2010).


A reception will be held at 5pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4335

6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public