North American Scholar
TREVER, Albert Augustus
A.B. Lawrence Coll. (Appjeton, WI), 1896; S.T.B. Boston U., 1900; Jacob Sleeper fell, at Halle '& Berlin, 1902-3; A.M. U. Chicago, 1910; Ph.D., 1913.
- Professional Experience:
Instr. Hebrew & bib. lit. DePauw U., 1900-2; prof. Gk. lang. & lit. Lawrence Coll., 1905-16; prof. anc. & med. hist., 1916-40; actng. prof. anc. hist. Cornell, 1923-4.
"A History of Greek Economic Thought" (Chicago, 1913); printed (Chicago, 1916).
"The Age of Hesiod: A Study in Economic History," CP 19 (1924) 157-68; "The Intimate Relation between Economic and Political Conditions in History, as Illustrated in Ancient Megara," CP 20 (1925) 115-32; History of Ancient Civilization vol. 1: The Ancient Near East and Greece, vol. 2: The Roman World (New York, 1936 & 1939).
A. A. Trever's academic career was more impressive and influential than the quantity of his published scholarship (three books, five articles, and seven reviews) would suggest. He was a pioneer in advancing the cause of economic, social, and cultural history and in insisting on the unity of history in a truly synthetic historiography. He inveighed mightily against defining history "as a mere disorganized body of details about battles, the names of kings, and dates," against limiting history to traditional politico-military narratives, and against historians who became so engrossed with one set of facts that they overlooked its essential relations to others. He argued strenuously that any given cultural phase of history can properly be understood only in intimate relation with its political and social setting. Trever's scholarly approach to history is encapsulated in his brief article on Megara (which also testifies to his conviction that a too exclusive emphasis upon Athens was a common error of the times) and is elaborated constantly and convincingly in his much-acclaimed and well-written two-volume History of Ancient Civilization, one of the most widely used textbooks in its field for several decades. Both volumes stress the human side of history, ideas, and the abiding cultural values of ancient civilization.Trever's parents and older siblings left England in 1870, traveling by ship, train, boat, and lumber wagon to Brant, WI, where "Gus" was born four years later during the first snowfall of the season. His education began in a one-room schoolhouse and continued until he passed away six weeks short of retirement from his alma mater. His students thought him an austere and somewhat intimidating but nonetheless wonderful teacher. He was a popular public speaker who taught intellectual history to Appleton businessmen and conducted a lecture series on local radio. He was, in short, a living legend and a dominant faculty figure. That legend lives on at Lawrence, for Trever Hall was dedicated as a student residence in 1963. Moreover, Trever understood much more acutely than his contemporaries the importance of numismatics for history, and one of his former students recently donated to her and his alma mater one of the most valuable collections of ancient, particularly Roman, coins ever assembled privately. The Ottilia Buerger coins are serving as teaching tools for students of classics, history, and art history at Lawrence in a tradition developed by A. A. Trever for 35 years, and so his influence is guaranteed to continue well into the future.
Carol Butts, "What's in a Name: Trever Hall," Lawrence News (May 1989) 2; Diet. Wisconsin Biog., 352-3; Frederic & Esther M. Fadner, Trever Treks: The Life of Joseph Sanderson Trever (1827-1899) in England and Wisconsin (Dunedin, FL, 1973); WhAm 1:1252.
- Author: Daniel J. Taylor