Dean of the Faculty

Reed College Faculty Profiles

David Harris Sacks

Richard F. Scholz Professor of History and Humanities, Emeritus
History Department
Division of History and Social Sciences

David Harris Sacks received his BA degree in History from Brooklyn College and his AM and PhD degrees in History from Harvard University, where he taught before moving in 1986 to Reed College. He has been a Fellow of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, John Carter Brown Library, and Clare Hall, Cambridge (of which he is a Life Member). In addition, he is an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in the United Kingdom and the recipient on two occasions from Franklin research grants from the American Philosophical Society. Along with membership on the editorial board of the Journal of the History of Ideas and until for a term on the editorial board the Journal of British Studies, he has served as Executive Secretary of the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS) and, at the American Historical Association, as a member of its elected Council as well as on its Program Committee and its Gershoy Prize Committee His published works include The Widening Gate: Bristol and the Atlantic Economy, 1450-1700 (1991), winner of the NACBS’s John Ben Snow Prize for 1992; an edition of Thomas More’s Utopia (1999); and a collection of essays, edited with Donald R. Kelley, on The Historical Imagination in Early Modern Britain: History, Rhetoric, and Fiction, 1500-1800 (1997). He has also published more than thirty articles and essays covering various topics in the cultural, intellectual and social history of early modern Britain and the Atlantic world, the most recent of which focus on the ethics of commercial exchange, especially in the developing Atlantic economy and on the intellectual and religious context for Richard Hakluyt’s writings on navigation and “discovery.” More recently he has added a focus on the career of the polymath mathematician Thomas Harriot to his scholarship. In May 2014, he delivered The Thomas Harriot Lecture in Oriel College, Oxford and is presently completing a book entitled The Certain and Full Discovery of the World: Richard Hakluyt and Thomas Harriot, which was also the title of the lecture. Although he has retired, he remains an active scholar and writer based in Portland, and continues to be available to advise seniors working on senior theses in his areas of scholarship. In Spring 2017, he shall be teaching History 382: Riddles of Reciprocity as an Emeritus course. It is devoted to exploring in historical terms the diversity of forms of “exchange” as a ubiquitous feature of sociability and social interaction.


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