Remembering John Murrin

Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, early American history

One of our great early American historians died yesterday, a victim of coronavirus.  Here is his obituary:

John M. Murrin, Professor of History emeritus at Princeton University, died May 2 at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in Hamilton of corona virus. He taught at Princeton for 30 years and previously taught at Washington University, St. Louis for ten years. He had a B.A. from the College of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, the city of his birth, an M.A. from the University of Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. from Yale University.

Murrin was an accomplished essayist on a variety of topics on the American colonial period, the American Revolution, and the College of New Jersey. Several of his more important essays were published by Oxford University Press in 2018 in the collection, Rethinking America: From Empire to Republic, with an introduction by Andrew Shankman.

He is survived by Mary, his wife of 52 years, brothers David and Michael, brothers-in-law John Roach, William Roach, and G.T. Buchman, and sister-in-law Jeannette Roach.

Services are private and under the direction of Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, Princeton.

John Murrin was brilliant. Someone once told me that if you gave John a date and a city from colonial America he could tell you who was walking down the street on that particular day. I can’t remember who told me this, but that person was only half joking.  I continue to use his essays in class and his thinking about early America continues to shape the way I teach.

I certainly did not know John as well as others in the early American history community.  I hope there will be other remembrances to come. But John did intersect with my life and career in several small, but important, ways. When I learned about his death, I felt moved to share a few of them.

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