Smith was educated at Dartmouth College (B.A. 1877; M.A. 1881) and Union Theological Seminary (1879–1881). Smith worked for Charles Scribner's Sons publishers 1881–1883 and Ginn & Co. 1883–1898 (becoming a partner in 1890); he was Professor of Modern History at Dartmouth 1899–1908. He resigned his professorship in 1908 to pursue historical research, and published The Annexation of Texas in 1911 and The War with Mexico in 1919. For the latter he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1920  and the first Loubat Prize in 1923. From 1917 to 1923 Smith was chairman of the Historical Manuscripts Commission of the American Historical Association.
Justin Harvey Smith also wrote "Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony" in 1907. He wrote "Arnold's March from Cambridge to Quebec" in 1903. In 1899 he wrote "The Troubadours at Home."
- Heinz Dietrich Fischer; Erika J. Fischer (1994). American History Awards, 1917-1991: From Colonial Settlements to the Civil Rights Movement. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 13–. ISBN 978-3-598-30177-3. http://books.google.com/books?id=BIdEedwsbcEC&pg=PA13.
- Elizabeth A. Brennan; Elizabeth C. Clarage (1999). Who's who of Pulitzer Prize Winners. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 280–. ISBN 978-1-57356-111-2. http://books.google.com/books?id=63nvmt4HqTEC&pg=PA280.
- "1920 Winners". pulitzer.org. http://www.pulitzer.org/awards/1920. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
- Smith, Justin Harvey. The War with Mexico, Vol 1. (2 vol 1919), full text online.
- Smith, Justin Harvey. The War with Mexico, Vol 2. (2 vol 1919). full text online.
- Works by Justin Harvey Smith at Project Gutenberg
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