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August 12 , 2008

Essential Documents in the History of American Higher Education


John R. Thelin’s A History of American Higher Education has become a standard in higher education studies. Designed to be used alongside this groundbreaking book or on its own, Essential Documents in the History of American Higher Education presents primary sources that chart the social, intellectual, political, and cultural history of American colleges and universities from the seventeenth century to the present. Documents are organized in sections that parallel the chapters in the first book both chronologically and thematically. Thelin introduces sections with brief headnotes establishing the context for each source.

In addition to such landmark documents as the charter for the College of Rhode Island (1764), the Morrill Land Grand Act (1862), the GI Bill (1944), and the Knight Commission Report on College Sports (2010), Thelin includes lively firsthand accounts by students and teachers that tell what it was like to be a Harvard student in the 1700s, to participate in the campus riots of the 1960s, to be a female college athlete in the 1970s, or to enroll at UCLA as a economically disadvantaged Latina in the 1990s.

Thelin also includes pieces by popular writers such as Robert Benchley and James Thurber on their own college days, as well as an excerpt from Groucho Marx’s screwball film Horse Feathers that help illustrate how ingrained college life has become in American pop culture.

Reflecting the richness of three centuries of American higher education, this complex and nuanced collection will be an essential resource for students of the history of education.

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