A History of American Higher Education / Edition 2

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In A History of American Higher Education, John R. Thelin offers a wide-ranging, engaging account of the origins and evolution of America's public and private colleges and universities. Thelin draws on both official institutional histories and informal memories to offer a fresh interpretation of an institutional past that encompasses both well-known colleges and universities and such understudied institutions as community, women's, and historically black colleges, proprietary schools, and freestanding professional colleges.

Emphasizing the notion of saga -- the proposition that institutions are heirs to numerous historical strands -- Thelin's lively history offers a much-needed challenge to conventional wisdom about how these institutions developed and functioned in the past.

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Editorial Reviews

History of Education Quarterly

Despite its age, Rudolph's single-volume history has endured... Now John Thelin's A History of American Higher Education provides a worthy replacement.

— Jana Nidiffer

Lexington Herald-Leader

Apart from being first-rate historical interpretation, Thelin's book offers several advantages that should make it attractive to the general reader as well as the scholar... His writing is brisk, concise, and humorous... Part public policy analyst and part social historian, Mr. Thelin weaves a tight narrative that keeps moving. He gives you the view from the administrative building, and he also tells you, often with accompanying photos, what students were like.

— Art Jester

Teachers College Record

A readable and concise introduction to this subject, it propels audience members to develop an appreciation for the heterogeneous... academe story as a whole.


This book was extremely well written and meticulously documented.


Thelin offers an historical analysis of contemporary trends and issues in higher education today, e.g., access, affordability, accountability, and assessment. How colleges addressed those issues within different periods of time and societal contexts makes for a more enlightened image of higher education in the US as it exists today.

Faciities Manager

Well written and engaging... retains the reader's attention... Thelin has raised the bar for historians of higher education to clear.

— Theodore J. Weidner

Education Review

Worthy of being the major new overview of U.S. higher education.

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Fills a real need in the scholarship... Accessible and informative, providing a reasonable foundation on which to build a rich understanding of the development of American higher education.

— Julie A. Reuben

Journal of College Student Development

Destined to be the standard work in this area for years to come.

Historical Studies in Education - Elea U. Herrera

A History of American Higher Education is a 'must read' for any scholar either teaching or taking a course in educational history.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781421402666
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2011
  • Edition description: second edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 504
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

John R. Thelin is University Research Professor and a member of the Educational Policy Studies Department at the University of Kentucky. His many books include Games Colleges Play: Scandal and Reform in Intercollegiate Athletics, also published by Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction : historians and higher education
1 Colleges in the colonial era 1
2 Creating the "American way" in higher education : college-building, 1785 to 1860 41
3 Diversity and adversity : resilience in American higher education, 1860 to 1890 74
4 Captains of industry and erudition : university-builders, 1880 to 1910 110
5 Alma mater : America goes to college, 1890 to 1920 155
6 Success and excess : expansion and reforms in higher education, 1920 to 1945 205
7 Gilt by association : higher education's "golden age," 1945 to 1970 260
8 Coming of age in America : higher education as a troubled giant, 1970 to 2000 317
Notes 363
Essay on sources 393
Index 409
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