Thursday, May 7, 2015

Peter Chardon Brooks Adams (June 24, 1848 - February 13, 1927), was an American historian and a critic of capitalism.

Career overview

He graduated from Harvard University in 1870 and studied at Harvard Law School in 1870 and 1871. Adams believed that commercial civilizations rise and fall in predictable cycles. First, masses of people draw together in large population centers and engage in commercial activities. As their desire for wealth grows, they discard spiritual and creative values. Their greed leads to distrust and dishonesty, and eventually the society crumbles. In The Law of Civilization and Decay (1895), Adams noted that as new population centers emerged in the west, centers of world trade shifted from Constantinople to Venice to Amsterdam to London. He predicted in America's Economic Supremacy (1900) that New York would become the center of world trade.

Adams was a great-grandson of John Adams, a grandson of John Quincy Adams, the youngest son of U.S. diplomat Charles Francis Adams, and brother to Henry Brooks Adams, philosopher, historian, and novelist, whose theories of history were influenced by his work. His maternal grandfather was Peter Chardon Brooks, the wealthiest man in Boston at the time of his death. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1918.

The 1900 US Census shows Brooks Adams as living in Quincy, Mass. The Census report also shows he married Evelyn Davis around 1890. The census does not show the couple having any children.



  • The Emancipation of Massachusetts: The Dream and the Reality, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919 [1st Pub. 1887].
  • The Gold Standard: An Historical Study, Alfred Mudge & Son, 1894.
  • The Law of Civilization and Decay: An Essay on History, The Macmillan Company, 1895.
  • America's Economic Supremacy, The Macmillan Co., 1900.
  • The New Empire, The Macmillan Company, 1902.
  • Railways as Public Agents: A Study in Sovereignty, Boston, 1910.
  • Theory of Social Revolutions, The Macmillan Company, 1913.


  • "The Spanish War and the Equalibrium of the World," The Forum 25 (6), August 1898.
  • "The New Struggle for Life Among Nations," McClure's Magazine 12 (6), April 1899.
  • "England's Decadence in the West Indies," The Forum, June 1899.
  • "War and Economic Competition," Scribner's 31 (3), March 1902.
  • "John Hay," McClure's Magazine 19 (2), June 1902.
  • "Legal Supervision of the Transportation Tax," The North American Review, September 1904.
  • "Nature of Law: Methods and Aim of Legal Education." In: Centralization and the Law: Scientific Legal Education. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1906.
  • "Law Under Inequality: Monopoly." In: Centralization and the Law: Scientific Legal Education. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1906.
  • "A Problem in Civilization," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. CVI, 1910.
  • "The Collapse of Capitalistic Government," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. CXI, 1913.


  • Henry Adams, The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma, with an introduction by Brooks Adams. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1919.



  • American National Biography, vol. 1, pp. 70â€"71.
  • World Book Encyclopedia 1988.
  • “Adams, Brooks,” The New International Encyclopædia. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1905.
  • “Adams, Charles Francis,” Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1900.
  • “Adams, Brooks” in The Encyclopedia Americana. New York, 1920.
  • “Adams, Brooks,” Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Co., 1921.

Further reading

  • Aaron, Daniel. "The Unusable Man: An Essay on the Mind of Brooks Adams," The New England Quarterly 21 (1), March, 1948.
  • Anderson, Thornton. Brooks Adams, Constructive Conservative, Cornell University Press, 1951.
  • Beisner, Robert L. "Brooks Adams and Charles Francis Adams, Jr.: Historians of Massachusetts," The New England Quarterly 35 (1), March, 1962.
  • Beringause, Arthur F. Brooks Adams; a Biography, Knopf, 1955.
  • Brands, H. W. "Brooks Adams: Marx for Imperialists," in The Struggle for the Soul of Foreign Policy, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Donovan, Timothy Paul. Henry Adams and Brooks Adams; the Education of Two American Historians, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.
  • Harris, Wilhelmina S. "The Brooks Adams I Knew," Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 80, 1968.
  • Madison, Charles A. "Brooks Adams: Jeremian Critic of Capitalism," The Antioch Review 4 (3), Autumn, 1944.
  • Mallan, John P. "Roosevelt, Brooks Adams, and Lea: The Warrior Critique of the Business Civilization," American Quarterly 8 (3), Autumn, 1956.
  • Marotta, Gary. "The Economics of American Empire: The View of Brooks Adams and Charles Arthur Conant," The American Economist 19 (2), Fall, 1975.
  • Nagel, Paul C. "Brooks Adams after Half a Century," Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 90, 1978.
  • Tonsor, Stephen. "Adams, Brooks," First Principles, June 2012.
  • Whiting, John. The Economics of Human Energy in Brooks Adams, Ezra Pound, and Robert Theobald, 1971.

External links

  • Works by Brooks Adams at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Brooks Adams at Internet Archive
  • Works by Brooks Adams at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • The Adams Memorial: Brooks Adams (1848-1927).
  • Guide to Brooks Adams papers at Houghton Library, Harvard University.
  • Guide to Correspondence of Brooks Adams with American novelist Henry Adams at Houghton Library, Harvard University.
  • Encyclopædia Britannica: Brooks Adams
  • Unitarian Universalist Historical Society: Peter Charadon Brooks Adams
  • Brooks Adams (1848-1927): Biographical Essay
  • Brooks Adams at Find a grave.

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