October 07, 1999
University Gazette


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Government Professor Edward Banfield Dies

Edward C. Banfield, the George D. Markham Professor of Government Emeritus, accomplished author, and controversial expert on urban affairs, died Sept. 30 at his home in East Montpelier, Vt. He was 82.

Banfield, whose conservative views on urban poverty drew widespread criticism in the 1970s and kept students flocking to his classes, was the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Urban Government at Harvard from 1959 until he left for a teaching position at the University of Pennsylvania in 1972.

Banfield returned to Harvard four years later as the George D. Markham Professor of Government, and remained here until his retirement. Banfield maintained a residence in Cambridge as well as in Vermont.

He was the author of several books, including The Unheavenly City: The Nature and Future of our Urban Crisis, in 1970. The Unheavenly City drew criticism for allegedly downplaying America’s urban crisis and disputing that racism is a root cause of urban African-American poverty.

Adding fuel to the critical fires was the fact that Banfield headed the Presidential Task Force on Model Cities under President Richard M. Nixon.

Banfield was born in Bloomfield, Conn., on Nov. 19, 1916. He received his bachelor’s degree from Connecticut State College at Storrs, now the University of Connecticut, in 1938. He did graduate work at the University of Chicago, receiving a doctorate in 1952.

In between the University of Connecticut and the University of Chicago, Banfield slowly made his way from the world of journalism to that of academia.

While an undergraduate, he worked as editor of the student newspaper and after graduating worked briefly as a reporter for the weekly Rockville Journal in Connecticut. He left the paper for a job with the U.S. Forest Service and in subsequent years worked for the New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation and for the U.S. Farm Security Administration.

He left the Farm Security Administration in 1947 and began writing an account of a cooperative farm established by the federal Resettlement Administration and liquidated by the Farm Security Administration. That work gained him notice by economist Rexford G. Tugwell at the University of Chicago, who invited Banfield to join the staff as an instructor.

While at the University of Chicago, Banfield did graduate work in political science, leading to his doctorate. He taught at the University of Chicago before coming to Harvard.

Banfield’s works include The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, published in 1958; City Politics, published in 1963; Boston: The Job Ahead; published in 1966; The Unheavenly City Revisited, published in 1974; and Here the People Rule, Selected Essays, published in 1985.

Banfield is survived by his wife, Laura, his two children, and four grandchildren.


Copyright 1999 President and Fellows of Harvard College