Crane Brinton was the historian whose Anatomy of Revolution used to be required reading. He was an old-fashioned type who interrupted his academic career to serve in the OSS during World War II. He encouraged fellow academics out in the real world to act on “the patient virtues [they] had acquired professionally” rather than to “get obsessed with the importance of thinking and planning.” Brinton claimed in self-deprecating fashion: “I have no doubt the high point of my career in intelligence came when I was called upon to answer a telephone request for the plural of ‘epiglottis.'”
Among other things at Harvard, Brinton taught Intellectual History of Europe in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. The class met at 9:00 a.m. for early risers; the Crimson Confidential Guide advised students to bring coffee and Danish for “Breakfast with Brinton.”
Brinton’s influence lives on in the work of Samuel Huntington and others. In the bibliography to Citizens, for example, Simon Schama cited Brinton’s 1930 book The Jacobins as an outstanding and still valid analysis of Jacobin personnel.
I haven’t thought about Brinton in a long time and I have to ask you to forgive the digression on him. Reading Lawrence Brinton’s illuminating NR column “Jeb Bush is toast” brought him to mind.
Lawrence Brinton is not only no relation to Crane Brinton, his name isn’t even Brinton. Lawrence Brinton is the pseudonym of a policy analyst who has informally advised several of the GOP presidential campaigns. His column provides an interesting and unusual analysis of the state of the race on the Republican side.
PAUL ADDS: Crane Brinton was a visiting professor at Dartmouth for part of the 1967-68 academic year. I was already a Brinton fan and my biggest regret about my time at Dartmouth is that, as a freshman, I wasn’t eligible for the “Breakfast with Brinton” seminar.