North American Scholar

MARSH, Frank Burr

  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1880-03-04
  • Born City: Big Rapids
  • Born State/Country: MI
  • Parents: Edwin Johnson a lawyer & Alma Lucia Burr M.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1940-05-31
  • Death City: Austin
  • Death State/Country: TX
  • Education:

    A.B. Michigan, 1902; Ph.D., 1906; study at Sorbonne, 1902-3.

  • Professional Experience:

    Asst. to instr. hist. U. Michigan, 1903-10; instr. to prof. anc. hist. U. Texas, 1910-40; spec. res. prof., 1933-4; fell. Royal Hist. Soc.

  • Dissertation:

    "English Rule in Gascony, 1199-1,259, with Special Reference to the Towns" (Michigan, 1906); printed (Ann Arbor, 1912).

  • Publications:

    "Some Phases of the Problem of Provincial Administration under the Roman Republic," Ann. Rpt. AHA 1 (1913) 111-25; The Founding of the Roman Empire (Austin, 1922; rev. London, 1927); "Tacitus and the Aristocratic Tradition," CP 21 (1926) 289-310; "Roman Parties in the Reign of Tiberius," AmHistR 31 (1925-6) 233-50; "In Defense of the Corn-Dole," CJ 22 (1926-7) 10-25; "The Chronology of Caesar's Consulship," ibid., 504-24; "The Policy of Clodius from 58 to 56 B.C.," CQ 21 (1927) 30-6; "Tiberius and the Development of the Early Empire," CJ 24 (1928-9) 14-27; The Reign of Tiberius (London, 1931); "The Gangster in Roman Politics," CJ 28 (1932-3) 168-78; A History of the Roman World from 146 to 30 B.C. (London, 1935; New York, 1939; rev. by H. H. Scullard [London, 1953]; 3d ed. [1963]); Tacitus, Selections from His Works, with H. J. Leon (New York, 1936); Modern Problems in the Ancient World (Austin, 1943).

  • Notes:

    A pupil of E. W. Dow at Michigan, Marsh was of the generation that worked in more than one era of history; but after publishing his dissertation in medieval studies he turned to the late Republic and early Empire and became the leading authority writing in English before Ronald Syme. At a time when few Americans were publishing in England, his works were welcomed by the Oxford University Press itself. His study of Tiberius led the way to redeeming that emperor from the malice of Tacitus. This became, indeed, the standard treatment of the second emperor, and in Oxford during the 1940s examiners would ask, when marking a candidate's answers on his reign, "Does he know Marsh?"He was then invited to prepare the crucial volume in Roman history for the Methuen series. Like all Marsh's other writings, the book concentrates minutely on politics. It was reviewed by no lesser figures than Hugh Last and Syme; the latter called it "the most honest and judicious history that could be imagined." Marsh's judgments were trenchant and solid: of Pompey, he said with Shakespeare that "he would not play the false and yet would wrongly win." In his two revisions of the book, H. H. Scullard left the text unchanged and added only a body of notes.As research professor in 1933-4 Marsh delivered the three lectures on Rome published in his Modern Problems, adding two on Greece ("Solon and the 'New Deal' in Athens," "Unemployment and Imperialism") in the published version, which appeared (though ready in 1937) only after his death. He remained unmarried, seldom attended professional meetings, and, though friendly in manner, was something of a recluse and lived mainly for his work, finding diversion in walking and detective stories

  • Sources:

    AmHistR 46 (1940-1) 254-5; Eugene Tavenner, C7 36 (1940-1) 123; T. R. S. Broughton, DAB Suppl. 2:433-4; WhAm 1:779.

  • Author: Mortimer Chambers