Multi-Period Histories

Divinings: Religion at Harvard from its Origins in New England Ecclesiastical History to the 175th Anniversary of the Harvard Divinity School, 1636-1992.  (Print Only)

The most lengthy published history of religion at Harvard began as an address delivered by Williams at the 350th anniversary of Harvard University in 1986. Williams worked on the manuscript until his death in October 6, 2000. After his death. his literary executors completed it. The second and third volume detail the history of the school.

The Harvard Divinity School: Its Place in Harvard University and in American Culture (Print Only)

The first lengthy published history of the school, this book grew out of a series of lectures given in 1953-54. Williams's introduction and essays form a theoretical framework for understanding the distinctive history of the school. The essays by Wright, Ahlstrom, and Reynolds are focused on the faculty and the intellectual life of the school. The essay on the "Student History" gives highlights of the history of the school written by students, year by year (1827-1913); the manuscript volumes are in the University Archives (title: History of Harvard Divinity School, 1827-1913.

Harvard President's Reports in the Harvard/Radcliffe Online Historical Reference Shelf

The Harvard Presidents' reports (1825-1985/86) in the Harvard/Radcliffe Online Historical Reference Shelf include an annual report (or Report of the Dean) of the curriculum and major activities of the Divinity School.

Peabody, Francis Greenwood. "The Spiritual History of Divinity Hall" [1915]. In Harvard Graduates' Magazine, Mar 1, 1916, p.462.

In an address delivered to the Divinity School Alumni Association, in the chapel of Divinity Hall on June 23, 1915, Peabody covers important events in the history of Divinity Hall.

Wright, Conrad. "Fresh Responses to New Situations: Some Instances of Innovation in the History of Harvard Divinity School." 1964. (Print Only)

In this talk given before the Visiting Committee and Faculty on Oct. 20, 1964, Wright covers the development and changes in the curriculum of the school as responses to a religiously pluralistic society, a religiously pluralistic world, and to the urbanization and industrialization of American life.

Anniversary Celebrations

Gannett, Ezra S. An Address Delivered at the Semi-centennial Celebration of the Cambridge Divinity School, July 17, 1867. Boston, L. C. Bowles, 1867.

In an address delivered on Visitation Day, Gannett reviews the school's first half century.

Addresses Delivered at the Observance of the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of the Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 5, 1916. Cambridge: Harvard University, 1917.

Includes addresses on "The First Half Century of the Divinity School" by Robert S. Morison and "Theological Education at Harvard between 1816 and 1916" by Charles W. Eliot.

Foundations for a Learned Ministry: Catalogue of an Exhibition on the Occasion of the One Hundred Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Divinity School, Harvard University. Cambridge, Mass., 1992. (Print Only)

This illustrated catalogue of the exhibition in Widener Library (Nov. 9-Dec. 2, 1992) was produced as part of the school's celebration of its 175th anniversary. It includes a brief historical sketch of the school by Peter J. Gomes, Curator of the Exhibition and Editor of the Catalogue.

Harvard Divinity Bulletin - HDS Bicentennial Issue (Winter 2017)

Single-Period Histories

1981: Kohr, Russell Vernon. Early History and Influence of Harvard College's Hollis Professorship of Divinity: (The First Endowed Professorial Chair in America), 1981. (Harvard Login)

Kohr's 1981 M.A. thesis, Western Michigan University.

2001: Jensen, Timothy Ward. The Wares: Three Generations of American Unitarians, 2001. (Harvard Login)

Jensen's 2001 Ph.D. thesis (University of Oregon) includes discussion of the formation of Harvard Divinity School and the role of the Ware family in its history.

Primary Sources

1815: Channing, William Ellery. Observations on the Proposition for Increasing the Means of Theological Education at the University in Cambridge, 1815. 

Channing's plea for the need for educated ministers and for theological education at Harvard was used as the preface for a plea for contributions and subscriptions for membership in a Society for the Promotion of Theological Education at Harvard University.

1825: Federal Street Society for Benevolent Purposes. Report of the Committee of the Association of the Members of the Federal Street Society for Benevolent Purposes, on the Application of the Directors of the Theological School in Cambridge, 1825. (Print Only)

An examination of the financial condition of the school and a resolution to solicit funds for the erection of Divinity Hall.

1825: West Church (Boston, Mass.) Report of the Committee of the West Parish Association on the State of Religion: accepted October 10, 1825. (Print Only)

The report examines the financial condition of the Theological School at Cambridge and recommends that the Association help in raising funds to aid the theological education at Harvard.

1826: Channing, William Ellery. "Discourse Delivered at the Dedication of Divinity Hall, Cambridge, 1826," in Discourses, Reviews, and Miscellanies, 1830.

Channing's discourse, based on the text "His word was with power;" (Luke 4:32), declares that "this edifice is dedicated to the training of ministers, whose word, like their master's, shall be 'with power,' ... that strong action of the understanding, conscience, and heart, on moral and religious truth, through which the preacher is quickened and qualified to awaken the same strong actions in others."

1830: Greenwood, F. W. P. The Theology of the Cambridge Divinity School, 1830.

Greenwood's speech and plea for funding to the Society for the Promotion of Theological Education at Harvard University describes the Divinity School's theology as being liberal (that is, "a free and generous theology"), serious and practical, and charitable. Two pages give a brief description of the school in 1829/1830 academic year.

1830: Ware, Henry. The Connexion between the Duties of the Pulpit and the Pastoral Office: An Introductory Address Delivered to the Members of the Theological School in Cambridge, October 18 and 25, 1830.

This sermon by Henry Ware Jr., Professor of Pulpit Eloquence and Pastoral Care, suggests what he taught his HDS students.

1831: Codman, John. Dr. Codman's Speech in the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, Feb. 3, 1831.

The reorganization of 1830 revived the controversy between the orthodox and Unitarians. On Feb. 3, 1831, a committee of the Board of Overseers (consisting of Dr. William Spooner, the Rev. John Codman, and the Rev. James Walker) appointed to review the statutes reported that a majority of the committee were in favor of "recommending a concurrence with the proceedings of the Corporation." Codman, who sided with the orthodox, dissented from the report, claiming that the school was Unitarian and, therefore, sectarian and not proper to be part of a state-supported university. He also objected that the head of the school was to be the President of the University, a layman, and that the school would have too great an influence on the rest of the University. Walker replied in an article in The Christian Examiner  that, by questioning the validity of the school, Codman had missed the whole point of the review. Codman's other objections were countered in the next issue that the faculty was Unitarian could not be denied, but "men are eligible as Professors, whatever may be the peculiarities of their opinion; and the pupils are free to examine and decide for themselves, as to the tenets they shall receive and admit as true."

1831: Palfrey, John Gorham. An Address Delivered before the Society for Promoting Theological Education, June 5, 1831.

Palfrey's speech and plea for funding deals with the following questions: 1. Why should ministers be educated at all? 2. If educated, why at a public institution? 3. If at a public institution, why at Harvard University? 4. If at Harvard University, why at the public expense? It also includes some information about the state of the school in 1831. Palfrey's address also appeared in The Christian Examiner.

1835: Palfrey, John Gorham. A Letter to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard College on the Proposed Change in the Constitution of that Seminary by an alumnus, 1835. (Print Only)

1836: Palfrey, John Gorham. Divinity School of the University of Cambridge. Cambridge, Mass. Cambridge Press, Metcalf, Torry, and Ballou, 1836.

This first history of the Divinity School, transcribed below, lists those who had attended. This library copy [Print Only] has Palfrey's handwritten corrections as to names dated 16 July 1840.

1838:  Emerson, Ralph Waldo. An Address Delivered before the Senior Class in Divinity College, Cambridge, Sunday Evening, 15 July, 1838. James Munroe and Company, 1838.

More about Emerson and his Divinity School Address.

1838: Ware, Henry Jr., The Personality of the Deity: A Sermon Preached in the Chapel of Harvard University, September 23, 1838. [Harvard Login]

A rebuttal to Emerson's Divinity School Address.

Other articles in The Christian Disciple about the Harvard Divinity School in the early period include: