American History and American Historians: A Review of Recent Contributions to the Interpretation of the History of the United States

By Hugh H. L. Bellot | Go to book overview

I
Some Aspects of the Recent History of American Historiography

D URING the last seventy-five years, three influences have shaped American historiography. They have been the liberalization of the academic curriculum, the establishment of professional standards, and the adoption of a distinctively American in place of what had been an essentially European point of view. The process of liberalization and the establishment of professional standards affected, of course, the whole range of American historiography. The process of Americanization affected primarily the writing of the history of the mainland colonies and of the United States.

Despite the liberal example of the University of Virginia, the traditional method of education at American colleges was by a single required course in classics and mathematics, consisting in the main of recitation from textbooks. If he got beyond this, the student still took, not geology, but Hitchcock's Geology, not chemistry, but Silliman's Chemistry.1 When Andrew Dixon White was at Yale in the early fifties, the study of history meant recitations from Putz's Ancient History and the Rev. John Lord's Modern History of Europe.2 Sparks had delivered historical lectures which were the fruit of original research at Harvard between 1839 and 1849;3 and Francis Lieber lectured upon

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1
W. P. Rogers, Andrew D. White and the Modern University ( Ithaca, 1942), p. 39; cf. H. B. Adams, The Study of History in American Colleges and Universities. Bureau of Education. Circular of Information No. 2, 1887 ( Washington, 1887), p. 21; The Autobiography of Andrew Dixon White ( 2 vv., New York, 1905), i. 26-9, 289.
2
White, op. cit., i, 28.
3
S. E. Morison (ed.), The Development of Harvard University...1869-1909 ( Cambridge, Mass., 1930), pp. 152-3.

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