Marcus Lee Hansen

Pulitzer Prize winner Marcus Lee Hansen

No other scholar has contributed more to the emergence of immigration studies as a special historical field than Marcus Lee Hansen (1892-1938),” says noted immigration authority and author Frederick Hale. Born in Neenah to Danish immigrant parents, Hansen attended college in Iowa and earned his PhD in history at Harvard. He was a professor of history at the University of Illinois from 1928 until his death in 1938. Hansen was one of the first historians of immigration to conduct extensive, multiarchival research in Europe. He completed the draft of the first volume of his projected trilogy on immigration before he died in 1938. Harvard professor Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. edited the draft into a polished manuscript which earned Hansen a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1940. In a 1938 essay, “The Problem of the Third Generation Immigrant,” Hansen first presented Hansen's Law: “What the son wishes to forget the grandson wishes to remember.” This law predicts that ethnicity is preserved among immigrants, weakens among their children, and returns with the grand­children. Children of immigrants tend to reject the foreign ways of their parents, including their religion, and want to join the American mainstream, but the next generation wants to retain the values of their ancestors.