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The American College and University: A History Paperback – January 1, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0820312842 ISBN-10: 0820312843 Edition: Reissue
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A tour de force . . . The general reader as well as the historian of education will find in it the interesting story of America's academic life, told with truth and originality"—Saturday Review


"An excellent book . . . easy to read and always interesting."—New York Times Book Review


"A carefully documented, well-indexed, and, to cap it, entertaining work leaving little doubt that the history of American higher education must be the most delightful story since the beginning of universities in medieval Europe."—American Behavioral Scientist

About the Author

Frederick Rudolph is Mark Hopkins Professor of History Emeritus at Williams College, where he was chair of the American Studies Program from 1971 to 1980.  John R. Thelin is University Research Professor of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Kentucky.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 563 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press; Reissue edition (January 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820312843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820312842
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By K.B. Melear (kmelear@aol.com) on February 3, 1998
Format: Paperback
Rudolph's study of the history of American higher education is considered a premier work in this body of knowledge. It traces the development of the American college and university from the pre-revolution seminary through today's large, multi-line land grant and private instituions and provides insight into the people and events which shaped these institutions and our country. A must for any historian or education scholar.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. J. O'Hara on January 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
Frederick Rudolph is a master of graceful historical narrative, and this classic account of the development of American higher education should be on the shelf of everyone who teaches in a college or university. From heart-breaking stories of college buildings that burned down before they were completed, to the history of liberal education, to arguments over importance of the extracurriculum, to anecdotes of nineteenth-century professors imported from Germany who found themselves chasing after students with stolen turkeys ("Ach, all dis for two tousand dollars!"), Rudolph will delight you and educate you all at the same time. This is a volume not to be missed.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jon L. Albee TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Both of you who have read any of my other reviews about college and university history books know that I like to gripe about the lack of academic quality in this genre, particularly regarding the histories of individual institutions. This book is different. It passes the test.

For the story of how American higher education evolved from tiny rustic roots into the world-leading, mega-institution it became by the late 19th century, this book is a joy, and the justified leader. Its rendering of the critically important evolution of institutions from local sectarian academies to colleges (after the Revolution) and from colleges to research universities (after the Civil War) is both essential and superb reading. American history told without this important social component is incomplete. We ARE our colleges. That's why we love them so much.

Rudolph's "struggling hilltop college" thesis has long been superseded by more sophisticated scholarship, as we know that our earliest colleges were far from the tiny, decrepit, under-supported institutions we quaintly recall. A reader can easily misunderstand the importance of a small college by simply assuming that enrollment figures tell the whole story. Rudolph makes that mistake. William & Mary was always a tiny institution by modern (and contemporary) standards. Does that, in any way, diminish its profound impact on American (and world) history? When Webster argued for Dartmouth before the Supreme Count in 1817, how many students did the College enroll? You get the idea. Before 1900, size really didn't matter.

Rudolph's conclusion that the rise of Jacksonian Democracy, in place of Hamiltonian Federalism, created a "crisis" in American higher education is just plain wrong, and a typical New England perspective.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By lingenfelter@ns.case.org on January 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
After more than 35 years Dr. Rudolph's pioneer journey into the history of American Higher Education stands as the model for others to follow.
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Format: Paperback
Rudolph has crafted a fairly exceptional account of a history of student life in "American College and University: A History." Overall, this text focuses on the cultural changes that occur in society that impact the college student and the college life.

I also recommend the following texts to be consulted while reading this book:

"A History of American Higher Education" by John Thelin
"American Higher Education" by Christopher Lucas
"Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present" by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz

Finally, if you are interested in the history of co-operative living I highly recommend the following historical account about the University of Kansas: "Making Do and Getting Through" by Fred McElhenie (it is locally published for the University of Kansas by Oread Books).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I teach a graduate level history class focused on the American university and its origin. There are others out there but this book was chosen since I believe so strongly in teaching with story. It definitely reads like a text, but flows with anecdotes which make things much more interesting.

Love how it begins with the 9 colonial colleges. It seems the treatment of the content is neutral enough, not too politically charged which can become distracting.

Recommended for teaching and for just reading, if you are that geeky.
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By Daphine on September 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
I literally wrote so many margin notes that I damaged the integrity of the spine and now pages from the book are falling out! Might need to get a new copy... If you are interested in the history of higher ed in the States, you must read Rudolph as he is part of the canon. At the time of writing there was such a void on the subject, so he made a genuine contribution. Since there others have filled in gaps (see Ebony and Ivy), but enjoy Rudolph's solid narrative style. He is a fantastic historian.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rudolph examines the contextual forces that have shaped higher education, ranging from Presidential elections to greek lettter societies. Very little attention is paid to internal factors driving the college curriculum, but these forces are examined in detail elsewhere (e.g., Lawrence Veysey).

An excellent overview of the college as part of society, but should be read in tandem with other more "internal" works.
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