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Virginia Tech Land-Grant University by Peter Wallenstein

Peter Wallenstein’s Virginia Tech Land-Grant University, 1872-1997:  History of a School, a State, a Nation provides a good introduction to the establishment of land-grant institutions through the Morrill Act of 1862 and their continued presence and growth through the Hatch Act of 1887 and the Morrill Act of 1890.  Wallenstein emphasizes federal legislation as the category of activity that most clearly frames the development of higher education, especially for Agricultural and Mechanical colleges and universities just starting in the middle or late 19th century.(Wallenstein 4)  He states that “the history of Virginia Tech serves as a lens through which to examine the workings of society and politics, of education and opportunity, of democracy itself.”(Wallenstein 6)  Because his work focuses on federal policymaking, he is only able to provide an overview of the history of Virginia Tech as a university.  Clearly Wallenstein’s book is important because it shows the effects of the Morrill Act of 1862, after which nearly every president of the United States attended college and attained a degree, but it put the history of Tech on the back burner for a significant portion of this book.  Wallenstein calls his work “a case study of social and political history of higher education in the United States in general and in Virginia in particular,” therefore, his work provides little substance to my work yet gives me a broad picture of the history of Virginia Tech and how it came into being.(Wallenstein 3)  I read the first half of the book, through the 1920s, but again, he offered few details of the inner-workings of the university, the relationship between faculty and administration, or the relationship between students and staff, because he focused on the relationship of Washington DC and the states, and the states and their land-grant institutions.


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