James H. Breasted

James H. Breasted books and biography


James Henry Breasted

James Breasted in Chicago, 1928.
James Breasted in Chicago, 1928.

James Henry Breasted (August 27, 1865–December 2, 1935) was born in Rockford, Illinois and was an archaeologist and historian. He was educated at North Central College (then North-Western College) (1888), the Chicago Theological Seminary, Yale University (MA 1891) and the University of Berlin (PhD 1894). He was the first American citizen to obtain a PhD in Egyptology. Breasted was in the forefront of the generation of archeologist-historians who broadened the idea of Western Civilization to include the entire Near East in Europe's cultural roots. Breasted coined the term Fertile Crescent to describe the area from Egypt to Mesopotamia.

He became an instructor at the University of Chicago in 1894 and was appointed Professor of Egyptology and Oriental History at in 1905 (the first such chair in the United States). In 1901, he was appointed director of the Haskell Oriental Museum, forerunner of the Oriental Institute, which had opened at the University of Chicago in 1896. Though the Haskell Oriental Museum contained works of art from both the Near East and the Far East, his principal interest was in Egypt; he began to work on a compilation of all the extant hieroglyphic inscriptions, which was published in 1906 as Ancient Records of Egypt, which remains an important collection of translated texts; as Peter A. Piccione wrote in the preface to its 2001 reprint, it "still contains certain texts and inscriptions that have not been retranslated since that time."

In 1919, funding was obtained from John D. Rockefeller for the Oriental Institute of Chicago, under whose auspices Breasted headed the University’s first archaeological survey of Egypt. In 1923 he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He died in 1935 from pneumonia, while returning from a trip to Egypt. He is buried in Greenwood cemetery, Rockford, Illinois. His grave site is marked with a large marble obelisk, which was a gift from the Egyptian government.


  • (1905) A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  • (1906–1907) Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest, collected, edited, and translated, with Commentary. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  • (1912) Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt: Lectures delivered on the Morse Foundation at Union Theological Seminary. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  • (1924) Oriental Forerunners of Byzantine Painting (University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications; 1). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  • (1926) The Conquest of Civilization. New York; London: Harper and Brothers. 
  • (1933) The Dawn of Conscience. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  • (1975) The 1905–1907 Breasted Expeditions to Egypt and the Sudan: A Photographic Study. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

Further reading

  • Breasted, Charles [1943] (1977). Pioneer to the Past: The Story of James Henry Breasted, Archaeologist. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226071863 (paperback). 
  • Scott, John A. (1927). "Professor Breasted as a Historian of Greece". The Classical Journal 22 (5): 383–384. ISSN 00098353 

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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