Motley, John Lothrop, 1814–77, American historian and diplomat, b. Dorchester, Mass. Author of two novels concerning Thomas Morton (1839 and 1849), as well as a number of articles for the North American Review. Motley's study of the history of the Netherlands resulted in The Rise of the Dutch Republic (3 vol., 1856), long a standard work and a popular success, and History of the United Netherlands (4 vol., 1860–67). His last work, The Life and Death of John of Barneveld, appeared in 1874. Motley had spent a short period in 1841 as secretary of the U.S. legation at St. Petersburg and later was minister to Austria (1861–67). President Grant appointed him minister to Great Britain in 1869, but difficulties arising from Motley's tendency to ignore the instructions of Secretary of State Hamilton Fish and from Grant's animosity toward his sponsor and friend, Charles Sumner, caused him to be relieved of his post in 1870.
See O. W. Holmes, John Lothrop Motley: A Memoir (1879); G. W. Curtis, ed., The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley (1889); John Lothrop Motley and His Family (ed. by his daughter, Susan M. Mildmay, and H. S. Mildmay, 1910).