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Kent Roberts Greenfield papers

Identifier: MS-0022

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, lecture notes, student notes, student papers, writings and research notes, Army Ground Forces Reports, David L. Greenfield material, personal, printed material, and photographs and postcards. The bulk of the material covers his work as an army historian (1942-1945, 1946-1958). The correspondence, arranged chronologically, is primarily letters from the army, and to and from colleagues, about his work. The correspondence documents Greenfield's ideas about how the ground historians should work and how the subsequent histories should be structured. There are also letters to his mother, Kate Greenfield, penned on a 1929 research trip to Italy. These form a travelogue of his work and recreation.

Greenfield's lecture notes from courses he taught at Hopkins form the largest series. He offered instruction in Italian history, Italian reunification, and the History of Occidental Civilization. The Occidental Civilization notes are especially interesting since the course was a four semester, rather than two semester, survey.

In 1938, Greenfield began writing a popular history of Italy. Manuscript and typescript drafts of this unpublished work form the bulk of the writings series. Greenfield approached this project with a great deal of planning and thought. The series contains his work plans and chapter outlines as well as the drafts. The typescripts contain handwritten corrections allowing the researcher to follow Greenfield's creative process. There is also a partial draft of a work on Army Air-Ground Forces, four reprints, and 2 loose manuscript pages. Greenfield delivered a number of public lectures between 1933 and 1942. The majority of them focused on the historical background of Fascism and its influence in Italy under Mussolini. Greenfield was particularly interested in how the new regime would influence the balance of power in the Mediterranean. Copies of these lectures form the speeches series.

In 1942, Greenfiled was appointed assistant to the Historical Officer in the Army Ground Forces. The printed reports he worked on form the Army Ground Forces series. Originally classified, they were made public after the war at Greenfield's suggestion (see The Historian and the Army, p. 8) The reports were the forerunners of the official United States Army History of the Second World War. The collection partially illuminates Greenfield's personal life. He kept some material of his father's, the Reverand David L. Greenfield. The series includes a notebook kept by the Reverand on "Studies of Words", and a scrapbook filled with clippings about his sermons. Also, there is a small series of personal material-- newspaper clippings, invitation to social affairs while at the College of Delaware, and playbills from the Wilmington Playhouse.

The printed material series contains only a few items. It consists of a Ph.D thesis and a few articles by colleagues inscribed to Greenfield. The student papers series is similarly small, containing only 1 item: a paper written by Walter H. Buck.

Finally, when Greenfield was abroad on research trips, he took photographs of his stops. These were labelled by him and arranged geographically. He also purchased post cards, and they too are arranged geographically. The second world war was the first to come under intense historical scrutiny by the United States Government. The 80 volume work produced by the Army Historical Section was the product of the first sustained effort to produce a systematic history of military services in the war. Although he began his career in academics, he devoted the most time and energy to the official history. His papers, primarily the correspondence during 1942-1956, offer a look at the mechanics of this undertaking.


  • Creation: 1900-1966


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

Kent Roberts Greenfield, Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, and chief architect of the official United States Army history of World War II, was born in 1893 in Chestertown, Maryland. He received his bachelor's degree from Western Maryland College in 1911 and his Ph.D in history from Johns Hopkins University (1915). He taught at Delaware College, now the University of Delaware, from 1915 to 1920, and was an assistant professor of history at Yale University from 1920 to 1930. In 1930, he came to The Johns Hopkins University as professor of modern European history and chairman of the History Department. He was a leading authority in the field of Italian history, particularly the Risorgimento, the movement for political unity in late 19th century Italy. His best-known work on the subject was Economics and Liberalism in the Risorgimento: A Study of Nationalism in Lombard, 1814-1848, published in 1934 and later translated into Italian.

Greenfield was chairman of the History Department from 1930-1946. During this time, he took a leave of absence (1942-1945) to serve as the assistant to the Historical Officer in the Army Ground Forces. This laid the groundwork for his being named to the position of Chief Historian of the Department of the Army in 1946. This involved directing the writing of the history of World War II which became a series of 80 volumes. Professor Greenfield was largely responsible for selecting numerous historians to work on the project, and before his retirement he edited 51 of the volumes. The expansive project covered every aspect of the second world war--planning, strategy and tactics, complex activities of the staff and technical services, as well as the command at all levels and the campaigns and battles themselves. Greenfield, in collaboration with others, wrote the first two volumes, but only edited and guided the staff writers in the later volumes. In 1958 after his retirement as Chief Historian of the Department of the Army, Greenfiled returned to Baltimore to write American Strategy in World War II: A Reconsideration, which was published by The Johns Hopkins Press in 1963.

Kent Roberts Greenfield died on July 25, 1967. He was unmarried and left no surviving family members.


3.63 Cubic Feet (7 legal size document boxes, 2 flat boxes (11 x 9 x 3 inches))

Language of Materials



Kent Roberts Greenfield (born 1893) was Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University and chief architect of the official United States Army History of World War II. The collection consists of correspondence, lecture notes, student notes, student papers, writings and research notes, printed material, and photographs and postcards. The bulk of the material covers his work as an army historian (1942-1945, 1946-1958).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of Kent Roberts Greenfield were received in 1970 by the library as a bequest of Professor Greenfield.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Margaret N. Burri in 1987.

Rachel Gattermeyer revised the biographical note and scope, content notes, and report titles in this finding aid in August 2023 to bring them into compliance with Johns Hopkins guidelines for inclusive and conscientious description (2023). The previous version of the finding aid is available upon request.

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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
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3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA