AboutLeland H. Carlson (1908-1995) was born in Rockford, Illinois, and educated at Beloit College (B.A.), Chicago Theological Seminary (B.D.), and the University of Chicago (Ph.D.). He began his teaching career at North Park College (1932-1942), before joining the history department at Northwestern University, where he won several awards for teaching European and British history. From 1955 to 1959 Carlson was president of Rockford College, then returning once again to teaching and the academic life at the Claremont Graduate School and Southern California School of Theology. In 1970 he was chosen the first Colin Rhys Lovell Professor of English History at the University of Southern California, retiring in 1973. From 1984 until his death, Carlson was a research scholar at the Henry E. Huntingdon Library in San Marino, California.
Carlson's specialty was the religious aspects of Elizabethan and early Stuart Puritanism in England. He is best known for the edited and annotated six volumes published between 1951 and 1970 of the writings of radical Separatists. The first two were co-edited posthumously with the English Congregational historian Albert Peel, whose work Carlson carried on following his death in 1949. Especially important were the anonymous Marprelate Tracts, with long-disputed scholarly arguments about their authorship. Carlson's final book (1981), based on extensive computer analysis of syntax and style, offered a convincing case for Job Throckmorton as the writer (Martin Marprelate, Gentleman: Master Job Throckmorton Laid Open in His Colors).
Of Swedish heritage, Carlson was raised in the Mission Covenant Church (Evangelical Covenant Church), and continued a life-long scholarly interest in immigration and denominational history. He wrote the fiftieth anniversary history of North Park College, the Covenant school, published in 1941. It was then that he turned his attention to a notable and tragic story of the discovery of Alaska gold in 1898, which had so many implications for Covenant leaders and institutions, a tangled and contested case of ownership extending over two decades that went to the Supreme Court of the United States on four occasions. Visiting Alaska three times doing meticulous research into legal proceedings and conducting oral interviews, Carlson succeeded in crafting a compelling narrative of gold, grief, and greed. An Alaskan Gold Mine: The Story of No. 9 Above (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1951) remains a classic case study of the Alaska gold rush as a whole, as well as the particular context of issues and personalities unique to the bonanza claim staked by a Covenant missionary on Anvil Creek above the boomtown Nome.