James Morrill Banner Jr. (born May 3, 1935) is an American historian whose scholarly specialties are the history of the United States, of the discipline of history, and of historical thought. He has served in a number of different academic and public capacities.
A New York City native born on May 3, 1935, he graduated in 1957 from Yale University. After service in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps in the United States and France, he earned his Ph.D. degree in 1968 at Columbia University under Richard Hofstadter and Eric McKitrick.
From 1966 to 1980, Banner taught at Princeton University, where he attained the rank of associate professor and chaired the Program in American Civilization and the Program in Continuing Education. He resigned his professorship in 1980 to found the American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities. Subsequently, he was a book publisher for a research organization and a foundation executive. He is known for the creation of institutions, including the National History Center and the History News Service. He also was the founding chairman of New Jersey Common Cause and served on the National Governing Board of Common Cause from 1973 to 1979. The recipient of fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, he was a Fulbright Scholar/Professor at Charles University, Prague, and is an elected member of the Society of American Historians and an elected fellow of the American Antiquarian Society.
Banner’s writings have been diverse and influential. In To the Hartford Convention, which Gordon S. Wood called “truly outstanding” and Jack P Greene termed “an essential contribution to the early political history of the new nation,” Banner tried to bring the Federalist Party back into consideration as fully committed to the principles of the American Revolution and the norms of republican government. Diane Ravitch called The Elements of Teaching, which Banner wrote with Harold C. Cannon, “a true classic,” and Andrew Delbanco termed its second edition “a wise and wonderfully concise reflection on a subject about which one might think everything worth saying had already been said.” Banner’s Being a Historian was characterized as “a remarkable work of analysis, advice, and warning.”