PRESCOTT, William Hickling

Born: May 4, 1796, in Salem, Massachusetts, United States

Died: January 28, 1859, in Salem, Massachusetts, United States

William Hickling Prescott was the son of a lawyer, and was prepared for Harvard by the Jesuit John Gardiner, who encouraged him in the classics. Prescott graduated from Harvard in 1814, but was almost blind as the result of an accident while in school. After graduating, he also developed severe rheumatism which prevented him from following his father's career in law.

With his interest in history, Prescott decided to become a writer specializing in Latin American history. He spent ten years writing History of Ferdinand and Isabella, which required considerable effort due to his disability. In 1820, he married Susan Amory, one of the people who read to Prescott to help his research.

What distinguished Prescott from other historians was his perseverance in search of reliable sources and the extent to which he tried to use original manuscripts. Today, Prescott is best known for History of the Conquest of Mexico and History of the Conquest of Peru.