R. B. Bernstein was born and educated in New York City, graduating from Stuyvesant High School in 1973. He earned his B.A. in American Studies from Amherst College (1977) and his J.D. from the Harvard Law School (1980), he also did graduate work in history at New York University. After three years in private law practice, he returned to academia.
He has co-curated exhibitions at The New York Public Library, the New-York Historical Society, and the Library of Congress for the bicentennials of the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Congress, and was historian at the New York City Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution and Research Director of the New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution. He is lecturer in law and political science at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at City College of New York, where he has taught since 2011. He is also distinguished adjunct professor of law at New York Law School, where he has taught since 1991.
His books include The Founding Fathers Reconsidered (2009), a finalist for the 2010 George Washington Book Prize, and Thomas Jefferson (2003), both New York Times bestsellers. His latest book, The Founding Fathers: A Very Short Introduction, was published in December 2015 by Oxford University Press, and he is now completing The Education of John Adams, also to be published by Oxford University Press in 2017. He also edited, introduced, and annotated The Federalist Papers (London: Arcturus Books, 2016), and coedited Thomas Jefferson and Bolling v.Bolling: Law and the Legal Profession in Pre-Revolutionary America (Huntington Library Press for NYU Law School, 1997), and “An Expression of the American Mind: Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson (The Folio Society, 2015)