Bartlett, Bicknell, Arnold, Field & Carroll

Below are five important and well known multi-volume books on the history of Rhode Island by foremost historians for the state. 



John Russell Bartlett

John Russell BartlettJohn Russell Bartlett (1805 – 1886) was an American historian and linguist. Born in Providence, he was one of the founders of the Providence Athenaeum, as well as an active member of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence Franklin Society, New England Historic Genealogical Society and the American Antiquarian Society. 

As Rhode Island Secretary of State, he saved the public papers, which had been carelessly bundled together for the past two hundred years. He classified and arranged about 25,000 papers into 192 volumes and 28 portfolios, rescuing them and making them accessible to the people of Rhode Island. He published extracts in 10 volumes, which can be read below. 

“Bartlett was one of those amazingly industrious nineteenth-century bookmen with a long list of accomplishments to his name, who will never get his due” (Mueller)

His portrait hangs in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. 

– Life and Services of The Hon. John Russell Bartlett by William Gammell

– Autobiography of John Russell Bartlett ed. Jerry E. Mueller



Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1636 – 1792 by John Russell Bartlett


Volume 1 1636-1663

Volume 2 1664-1677

Volume 3 1678-1706

Volume 4 1707-1740


Volume 5 1741-1756

Volume 6 1757-1769

Volume 7 1770-1776

Volume 8 1776-1779

Volume 9 1780-1783

Volume 10 1784-1792




Thomas W. Bicknell

BicknellThomas W. Bicknell (1834-1925) of Barrington was a historian, lecturer and scholar. He founded several church and educational institutions, The New England Journal of Education, The National Council for Education and was President of the National Education of the United States. He served on the Rhode Island House of Representatives and became Commissioner of Public Schools, where he created the State Board of Education. 

– The Boston Globe Obituary

In 1920 he published a three-volume narrative history of the state, supplemented by three biographical volumes. This work is still of great value to historians and genealogists.


The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations by Thomas William Bicknell


Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5

Volume 6




Samuel Greene Arnold

Samuel Green ArnoldDescended from Thomas Arnold, one of Providence’s earliest settlers, Samuel Greene Arnold (1821-1880) was a Rhode Island Senator, lawyer and foremost historian of colonial Rhode Island. He served as Lieutenant Governor, and Acting Governor of Rhode Island. He was a member of the peace commission held at Washington, D.C. in 1861. During the Civil War he was mustered into the Union Army. He was president of the Rhode Island Historical Society.

– Biographical Directory of the United States



History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations by Samuel Greene Arnold


Volume 1 1636 - 1700

Volume 2 1700 - 1790




Edward Field

Edward FieldEdward Field (1858-1928) is the editor of this well know anthology of important works on the history of Rhode Island. In the preface he explains his purpose is to update Arnold, whose work concludes with the year 1790. 




State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century: a History edited by Edward Field


Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3




Charles Carroll

Charles CarrollBorn in Providence, Dr. Charles Carroll (1876-1936) was an educator, lawyer, lecturer, author, and editor. He was Rhode Island’s foremost historian of his era.

During his service with Commissioner Ranger, Dr. Carroll drafted more than fifty educational bills, which have been enacted into law by the General Assembly. He is the author of “Rhode Island,” the State anthem.

 Carroll’s masterwork was Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, a four-volume opus containing two volumes of accurate narrative history and two devoted to biographical profiles of early 20th century Rhode Island leaders. It remains the best multi-volume history of the state.

– Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame

– Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, Vol. 3, p.36


Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy by Charles Carroll


Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4