Resources: Readings

Readings on the university and college students:

General Sources
The works below are classic texts in and important modern contributions to the field.  Each in its own way has helped shape current understandings of the history of American higher education.


Laurence R. Veysey, The Emergence of the American University.Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1965.

The Emergence of the American University is the classic text on the tremendous change in American higher education between 1865 and 1910.  The work focused on structural and administrative change, pointing to the rise of bureaucracy and the “gulf” that appeared between faculty and students.


Richard Hofstadter and Walter P. Metzger, The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States. New York: Columbia University Press, 1955.

Written amidst the red scare difficulties of the early 1950s, this book offers a detailed discussion of the history of academic freedom in the United States, beginning with the European antecedents and continuing through World War I.  The work is about much more than academic freedom, however, providing a more thorough account of higher education as a whole than might be expected from the title.  Richard Hofstadter’s portion (up to 1860) is highly critical of colleges prior to the Civil War, terming part of the period as “The Great Retrogression.”  Metzger’s examines the transformation of higher education in the post-Civil War period, focusing on changes in scholarship and administration at the leading edge of research universities.


Frederick Rudolph, The American College & University: A History (2nd Edition with Introductory Essay and Supplemental Bibliography by John R. Thelin). Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990.          

From its initial publishing in 1962 through the early years of this century, Rudolph’s work was the standard history of American higher education.  Although increasingly criticized in the decades after is publication, including for its emphasis on elite institutions and privileged populations, Rudolph’s work remains useful for its discussions of student life, its detailing of campus experiences, and its inclusion of previously neglected sources.  Thelin’s introductory essay, “Rudolph Rediscovered,” and Supplemental Bibliography offer important context, discussions of sources, and considerations of the works strengths and weaknesses.


John R. Thelin, A History of American Higher Education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

Published in 2004, Thelin’s A History of American Higher Education is the most current and valuable single volume history of higher education in the United States.  Emphasizing what Thelin terms both the horizontal (system, policy, external influences) history and the vertical (institutional) history, the work incorporates numerous traditional and untraditional sources to provide an accessible discussion of the development of American higher education.  Especially important to Thelin is the idea of institutional saga and the role that it plays in our experiences and understandings of colleges and universities.


Books on Specific Historical Topics Relevant to EUI
There are hundreds of works that students and faculty exploring issues involving the history of higher education might consider.  The works below are examples focused on the history of student life, student affairs, and student protest.


Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Barbara Miller Solomon, In the Company of Educated Women. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986.          

Linda Eisenmann, “Reconsidering a Classic: Assessing the History of Higher Education a Dozen Years After Barbara Solomon,” Harvard Educational Review 67, 4 (Winter 1997), 689-717.

Carolyn T. Bashaw. Stalwart Women: A Historical Analysis of Deans of Women in the South. Teachers College Press, 1999.

Jana Nidiffer. Pioneering Deans of Women: More than Wise and Pious Matrons. New York: Teachers College Press, 2000.

Joy Ann Williamson. Black Power on Campus: The University of Illinois, 1965-75. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2003.


These collections offer numerous primary sources and provide context that will help students and faculty locate and understand them.


Lester F. Goodchild and Harold S. Wechsler (eds), ASHE Reader on The History of Higher Education, Needham Heights, MA:  Ginn Press, 1989.
Lester F. Goodchild and Harold S. Wechsler (eds), ASHE Reader on The History of Higher Education (2nd Edition), Pearson Custom Publishing, 1997.

These two volumes pull together numerous important articles, documents, and excerpts that help relay and investigate the history of higher education.  The works are organized into five chronological periods (colonial, antebellum, post-civil war, early 20th c., post-World War II) and draw from journals, books, and primary source materials.

Harold S. Wechsler, Lester F. Goodchild and Linda Eisenmann (eds), ASHE Reader on The History of Higher Education (3rd Edition), Boston, MA: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2007.

Richard Hofstadter and Wilson Smith (eds), American Higher Education: A Documentary History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.

Wilson Smith and Thomas Bender (eds), American Higher Education Transformed, 1940-2005: Documenting the National Discourse.  Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Victoria-Maria McDonald (ed). Latino Education in the United States: A Narrated History from 1513-2000. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.


Chapter Overviews
The two works below offer short but useful treatments of the history of higher education.  They might be useful introductory works for students beginning to consider the history and context of colleges and universities.


Roger L. Geiger, “The Ten Generations of American Higher Education.” In Berdahl, R. O., Altbach, P. G., Gumport, P. J. (Ed.), Higher education in the twenty-first century, 2nd ed. (38-70). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

Harold Perkin. “History of Universities.” In Lester F. Goodchild and Harold S. Wechsler (Eds.), ASHE reader on the history of higher education, 2nd ed. (pp. 3-32). Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 1997. (also in Forest and Altbach)


Scholarship on the history of higher education in the United States appears in a variety of journals, including general education journals such as the American Educational Research Journal, higher education publications such as The Journal of Higher Education, international journals such as Paedagogica Historica, and publications of regional and specialized history of education groups, such as the American Educational History Journal.  The two most significant American journals on the topic are:

History of Education Quarterly: Edited by James Anderson and colleagues at the University of Illinois, HEQ is the scholarly publication of the History of Education Society.  It is the leading American journal focused on the history of education as a whole.

Perspectives on the History of Higher Education (Formerly History of Higher Education Annual):  Edited by Roger L. Geiger, Perspectives is the sole American scholarly journal dedicated to the history of higher education.



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