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Amendment to Thelin

John R. Thelin’s A History of American Higher Education is the most recent of Thelin’s many books about American higher education.  In this book, Thelin endeavors to “bring together the fresh research by historians” along with a “synthesis of articles, books, and monographs by dozens of established historians” in order to explain the “logic, methods, and complexities that historians encounter in reconstructing the past of colleges and universities (to) inspire as well as inform higher education leaders and decision makers.”(Thelin pgs. xix, xx, xvi)  Thelin intends to replace Frederick Rudolph’s The America College and University: A History with this new, comprehensive edition that also includes the history of the four decades between Rudolph’s work and this book.  Thelin plans to focus much of the work on, what he calls, understudied institutions, including women’s colleges, historically black campuses, community colleges, professional schools, and state sponsored colleges, especially those receiving federal aid via the Morrill Act of 1862.(Thelin, xx)  He structures his book thematically and these sections often overlap chronologically beginning with the American colonial period and running through the new millennium.  Throughout the first 5 chapters, Thelin hardly lives up to his promise of promoting the understudied schools, but this is due to the facts that they did not yet exist or were recipients of great philanthropy.  This is corrected in the later chapters.  All in all, Thelin’s work functions as a great introductory source to the history of American higher education because he is able to tie so many historian’s work together in this synthesis of his life’s work.


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