William Yandell Elliott, 82, professor emeritus of history and government at Harvard University and a retired professor at American University, died Tuesday at his home in Haywood, Va. He had had a circulatory ailment for the past five years.

Prof. Elliott joined the Harvard faculty in 1925.During his 38 years there, he guided more than 100 students through the preparation of their doctoral dissertations. Many went on to distinguished careers in government, and they include former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada, and McGeorge Bundy, a White House adviser on national security matters under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Kissinger once wrote of Prof. Elliott that "whatever I have achieved, I owe importantly to his inspiration." Prof. Elliott's influence as a teacher extended outside the circle of his own students. Adm. Stansfield Turner, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said that he had been persuaded to seek a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University after hearing Prof. Elliott give a talk at the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1945.

In addition to his academic work, Prof. Elliott served as an adviser to numerous government agencies over the years. He spoke of the dangers of both communism and fascism before World War II. During the war, he was an official of the Office of Production Management and later vice chairman of the War Production Board.

He frequently warned that the western Allies could not count on the friendship of the Soviet Union in the postwar pariod. In the late 1940s, he was staff director of the House committee on foreign affairs and foreign aid.He also was a consultant to the State Department and the National Security Council.

But he regarded himself as a teacher rather than a government official and his interests as a teacher extended to undergraduates as well as graduate students. He taught a freshman course on the gistory of political theory called Government 1. Prof. Elliott used it, among other purposes, to spot bright young people who might be encouraged to pursue careers as political scientists and government officials. As a professor, he would help them with their advanced studies. As a man with wide contacts in Washington he would help them begin their public careers.

In "Western Political Heritage," which he wrote with N.A. McDonald, the basic text for Government 1, Prof. Elliott set fourth his view that political science was the product of a conflict between the good and evil in the nature of man.

As the claborated on this theme in his lectures, Prof. Elliott sometimes spoke with evangelistic fervor. He was passionate in his belief that the struggle between good and evil was as relevant to contemporary problems as they were to Plato and the other ancients. Among contermporary forces, he regarded communism as the chief evil.

Prof. Elliott was born in Murfreesboro, Tenn. He was educated at Vanderbilt University, where he became a member of a group of poets and critics known as "The Fugitives" and at Oxford University, where he earned a doctorate in 1923. He served in the Army during World War I and taught at Vanderbilt and the University of California before moving to Harvard.

Following his returement from Harvard with the status of professor emeritus in 1963, he taught for six years at American University here.

Prof. Elliott and his student colleagues among "The fugitives" at Vanderbilt believed that the salvation of the South lay in a return to the land. For the past 25 years, Prof. Elliott made his home at "Hidden Valley Farm" in Haywood. Besides cattle and sheep, he raised wild turkeys and "fighting chickens" on the farm's 1,000 acres.

In addition to "Western Political Heritage," Prof. Elliott's books included "The Pragmatic Revolt in Politics," "Industrial Mobilization and the National Security," and "The Need for Constitutional Reform."

Survivors include is wife, Louise, of the home; four sons, Ward and David, both of Claremont, Caif., Charles, of Bethesda, and Paul of Waltham, Mass.; a brother, Richard, of Idyllwood, Calif., and six grandchildren.