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The American College and University: A History by Frederick Rudolph (with an introductory essay and a supplemental bibliography by John R. Thelin; 175,000 words)

First published in 1962, this book remains one of the most significant works on the history of higher education in America. Bridging the chasm between educational and social history, it was one of the first to examine developments in higher education in the context of the social, economic, and political forces that were shaping the nation at large.

Surveying higher education from the colonial era through the mid-20th century, Rudolph explores a multitude of issues from the financing of institutions and the development of curriculum to the education of women and blacks, the rise of college athletics, and the complexities of student life. In his foreword to this edition,
John R. Thelin assesses the impact Rudolph’s work has had on higher education studies. The edition also includes a bibliographic essay by Thelin covering significant works in the field that have appeared since the publication of the first edition.


“[A]n excellent book... a scholarly book, but one easy to read and always interesting.” — Francis Horn,
The New York Times Book 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] important and widely celebrated book... it collects an enormous number of disparate sources... and weaves them into a history of American colleges and universities that is useful, even today, to both the scholar and the general reader... an exceptionally comprehensive book... it traces some three hundred years of the history of American colleges and universities from the 1636 founding of Harvard well into the twentieth century.” — David S. Webster,
The Review of Higher Education

“[Rudolph] has skillfully organized the results of his comprehensive research; he has a flair for catching the attention with a colorful incident or a memorable quotation; and he writes with a sprightly yet authoritative style. The result is an exceptionally readable account that the scholar will find a profitable addition to his library. The book should appeal, too, to the general reader with a non-professional interest in American higher education, and in how it developed, and why.” — David Madsen,
History of Education Quarterly

The American College and University... covers an amazing amount of ground in less than 500 pages of text... a significant contribution.” — Russell E. Miller, American Association of University Professors Bulletin

“[A] first-rate contribution to the all-too-meager written history of American education and an example of institutional history at its best.” — Theodore R. Sizer,
The New England Quarterly

“Frederick Rudolph has chosen to create a vast design stretched across the canvas of several centuries and a broad continent, woven against the military, political, and economic tapestry of a new people creating a new way of life... He has more than succeeded. Covering both minute detail and sweeping developments, Mr. Rudolph makes a significant contribution to historical research by relating the growth of higher education to the totality of the American scene. At the same time he has produced a readable literary effort — set apart from books for popular consumption not by its style, which is well paced and clear, but by its depth of documentation... Rudolph writes with the skill of the novelist in keeping his narrative alive.” — Kenneth R. Williams,
The Florida Historical Quarterly

“This is a superb account of American higher education from colonial times to the present... The major developments are here, all in perspective, and treated in such a way as to please readers who value clarity, insight, proportion, quiet humor, and literary grace.” — Irwin G. Wyllie,
The Business History Review

The American College and University is felicitous writing, eminently readable and frequently entertaining... Rudolph's work makes a significant contribution to educational history and will repay conscientious study.” — Saul Sack, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

“[Rudolph's book] bears the marks of sound scholarship, and it is written with clarity and urbanity. It will be read with interest by academics and laymen and will probably remain the best one-volume history of its subject for many years.” — Frederick H. Jackson,
The Mississippi Valley Historical Review

“[T]his is a very capable history of the American college and university and is delightfully written... Both layman and historian can read this book with great profit and great enjoyment.” — Philip Davidson,
The Journal of Southern History

“[V]ery readable and at times absorbing... [an] illuminating history of the American college.” — Leonard F. Bacigalupo,
The Catholic Historical 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