Remembering Jesse Lemisch 1936-2018

The Steering Committee of Historians for Peace and Democracy (H-PAD) is saddened to announce the death of historian Jesse Lemisch (1936-2018).  Jesse was one of the founders of Historians against the War (precursor of H-PAD) and served for several years on its Steering Committee.  His pioneering work on “history from below,” with his early focus on the American revolution, inspired many young scholars who went on to do important research in United States social history.  Along with his scholarship, Jesse made an invaluable contribution to the historical profession by his critique of almost all of its prevailing practices.  His list of objections was far-reaching and, more often than not, his polemics hit a mark or at least raised substantive questions about the conventional wisdom.  Throughout his life, Jesse was an activist scholar.  He could be contentious and difficult at times, but also a principled advocate on issues of peace and justice.  For online appreciations, see “Jesse Lemisch, 1936-2018.”
H-PAD Steering Committee member Staughton Lynd Remembers:
Jesse Lemisch was several things at the same time.  He originated the term “history from the bottom up” and his PhD thesis on Jack Tar was recognized by the William and Mary Quarterly as one of the best articles it had published.  He experienced the indescribable illness of his lifetime partner Naomi that kept her bed-ridden for most of her (and his) life.  He and I got into a squabble in the late 1960s about the relation of academic work and Movement activity that we managed to keep going for 50 years, all the while showering each other with comradeship and love.  Finally, he wrote a small book entitled On Active Service in Peace and War in which he frontally attacked the Rostows, the Bundys, and all like-minded devotees of United States imperialism for failing to do good history when it came to the critical issues of the day.  The University of Chicago indicated he would not be welcome there.  He got a job offer at a place where the history department had offered me a job only to have it nixed by the university president.  Jesse asked me whether it would be permissible in our universe of ethical absolutes for him to accept the offer.  Finally, he began the reading of a paper at the 1969 AHA in New York City by loudly intoning “Boom, boom, boom,” explaining that this was directed at Bernard Bailyn who discharged a cannon of condescension at anyone who questioned the notion that the ideology of the American Revolution was a warmed-over version of two eminently forgettable British pamphleteers of the 1720s.
Words I remember recalling about the third member of our triumvirate Al Young are equally applicable to Jesse:
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him  that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “This was a man!”
Julius Caesar, Act V, SceneV