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The Rise of the Research University

A Sourcebook

The modern research university is a global institution with a rich history that stretches into an ivy-laden past, but for as much as we think we know about that past, most of the writings that have recorded it are scattered across many archives and, in many cases, have yet to be translated into English. With this book, Paul Reitter, Chad Wellmon, and Louis Menand bring a wealth of these important texts together, assembling a fascinating collection of primary sources—many translated into English for the first time—that outline what would become the university as we know it.
The editors focus on the development of American universities such as Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and the Universities of Chicago, California, and Michigan. Looking to Germany, they translate a number of seminal sources that formulate the shape and purpose of the university and place them next to hard-to-find English-language texts that took the German university as their inspiration, one that they creatively adapted, often against stiff resistance. Enriching these texts with short but insightful essays that contextualize their importance, the editors offer an accessible portrait of the early research university, one that provides invaluable insights not only into the historical development of higher learning but also its role in modern society.

Read the introduction.

400 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Education: Education--General Studies, Higher Education

History: American History, European History, History of Ideas


“The Rise of the Research University charts how unpredictable and unstable university systems have been on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It reveals that academic soul-searching about the role of research universities is as prevalent now as it was 150 years ago. But it also shows how important these bodies remain, in both the United States and Europe, in advanc­ing understanding of the world.”


"[T]racks the history of the research university through a well-curated collection of documents on subjects ranging from core curricula to coeducation. Short enough to read and not just consult, the book tells a story that begins with the German universities that inspired ours. It ends in Veblen's time, when American universities took on the shape we recognize today. The editors focus on description, not commentary; you'll be able to supply the latter for yourself."

Chronicle of Higher Education

“A valuable sourcebook for scholars of higher education.”

Michael S. Roth, President of Wesleyan University

“With this book, Menand, Reitter, and Wellmon provide a rich and complex historical context that helps us understand not only where modern universities came from but also the scope of their fundamental mission.”

John W. Boyer, Dean of the College at the University of Chicago and author of The University of Chicago: A History

Table of Contents

General Introduction

Part 1  German Research Universities

1          Friedrich Gedike, Report to King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Germany
2          Johann David Michaelis, On the Importance of Protestant Universities in Germany
3          Friedrich Schiller, What Is Universal History and Why Study It? An Inaugural Academic Lecture
4          Friedrich Schleiermacher, Occasional Thoughts on German Universities in the German Sense
5          J. G. Fichte, A Plan, Deduced from First Principles, for an Institution of Higher Learning to Be Established in Berlin, Connected to and Subordinate to an Academy of Sciences
6          F. W. J. Schelling, Lectures on the Method of Academic Study
7          Wilhelm von Humboldt, On Germany’s Educational System

Part 2  Americans Abroad and Returning

8          George Ticknor and George Bancroft, Letters to Thomas Jefferson and Edward Everett
9          Richard Theodore Ely, American Colleges and German Universities
10        Henry Tappan, On German Universities
11        James M. Hart, German Universities: A Narrative of Personal Experience

Part 3  American Adaptations

12        The Morrill Act
13        Daniel Coit Gilman, The Utility of Universities
14        G. Stanley Hall, Opening Exercises
15        Andrew D. White, The Relations of the National and State Governments to Advanced Education
16        William Rainey Harper, The University and Democracy

Part 4   Undergraduate Education in the University

17        Charles William Eliot, The New Education
18        Noah Porter, Inaugural Address
19        Charles William Eliot, Liberty in Education
20        James McCosh, The New Departure in College Education, Being a Reply to President Eliot’s Defence of It
21        Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Future of Our Educational Institutions

Part 5   Diversity and Inclusion: Female University Students

22        Diversity and Inclusion: Introduction
23        Helene Lange, Higher Schools for Girls and Their Mission: Companion Essay
24        J.B.S. and M.F.K., Women at the German Universities: Letters to the Editor of the Nation
25        Decree on the Admission of Women to Universities

Part 6   General Education

26        General Education: Introduction
27        Charles Sears Baldwin, Editorial: A Focus for Freshmen
28        John J. Coss, The New Freshman Course in Columbia College
29        Robert Maynard Hutchins, General Education
30        Harry D. Gideonse, The Higher Learning in a Democracy

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