George Athan Billias

George Athan Billias (June 26, 1919 – August 16, 2018) was an American historian.

Early life

Billias was born in Lynn, Massachusetts.[1] He received his B.A. from Bates College in 1948 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1958.[2] He served as a military historian for the U.S. Air Force, and as a medical administrative officer during World War II. He received the Bronze Star for gallantry in evacuating wounded from the Remagen bridgehead during the Battle for the Ludendorf Bridge across the Rhine River in March 1945.[3]


Billias held the Jacob and Frances Hiatt Chair at Clark University from 1983 until his retirement in 1989.[4] Following his retirement, he was awarded emeritus professor status. He has written several books, including George Washington's Generals And Opponents (1994) and General John Glover and His Marblehead Mariners (1960), as well as edited several collections including American Constitutionalism Abroad: Selected Essays in Comparative Constitutional History (1990). Billias also wrote Eldridge Gerry: Founding Father and Republican Statesman.[5]

One of his early works was The Massachusetts Landbankers of 1740 published in 1959 by the University of Maine Press.[6] He specialized in Colonial, Revolutionary War era, and Early National period America, with special emphasis on economic, military, legal, and constitutional subjects. Most recently, he has focused on the influence of the American constitution on the world.[7]

His book American Constitutionalism Around the World, 1776–1989 (New York University Press, 2009) won the New England Historical Association's 2010 book award.[8]

Historian Gordon S. Wood states at a 1989 symposium honoring Billias that also included Milton M. Klein, Drew McCoy, Isaac Kramnick, Lance Banning, and Peter S. Onuf:

In my opinion, George Billias epitomizes the working historian; he is the craftsman who represents the heart and soul of what we as a profession are about. He demonstrates why history is a discipline. He doesn't waste time wondering abstractly about truth and objectivity and musing about the possibilides of actually represendng past reality. He just does history. Day in and day out he writes the books and articles that become the essendal stuff of our cumuladve effort to recover our past. Without the products of hardworking scholars like Billias, there would be no historical discipline and nothing of what we think of as history. [9]


Billias died on August 16, 2018, at his home in Worcester, Massachusetts at the age of 99.[10]


  1. ^ George Athan Billias, George Washington's Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership (Morrow, 1969), p. 363.
  2. ^ Clark University Handbook for Graduate Students, 2008–2009
  3. ^ General John Glover and His Marblehead Mariners, Dustjacket
  4. ^ The Republican Synthesis Revisited: Essays in Honor of George Athan Billias (American Antiquarian Society, 1992), p. 70.,
  5. ^ Perseus Books entry for Billias
  6. ^ questia listing
  7. ^ "George Athan Billias," Library of Congress Online Index, accessed October 24, 2009.
  8. ^ NEHA Book Award Website
  9. ^ Gordon S Wood, "Afterword," Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society (April 1992, Vol. 102 Issue 1, pp 205-213, quote p 205.
  10. ^ George Billias obituary

Further reading

  • Milton M. Klein and Richard D. Brown, eds. The Republican Synthesis Revisited: Essays in Honor of George Athan Billias (U of Virginia Press, 1992)

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