The Growth of American Thought

By Merle Curti | Go to book overview

Preface to the Second Edition

It is now seven years since the first edition of The Growth of American Thought appeared. As the Bibliographical Note. 1950, indicates, these years have witnessed the blazing of many new trails in what is still a new field. These contributions to our understanding of American intellectual development fall, by and large, into the two main categories posited in the introduction to the first edition of this book. On the one hand, we are indebted to established and to younger scholars for monographic studies. On the other hand, we have welcomed the appearance of major syntheses of a longitudinal sort--histories of economic ideas, of law, of philosophy, of literature, and of the arts. These contributions testify to the fact that the field of American intellectual history has attracted able talent and is being intensively cultivated. The essential problems of the field, problems of purpose, scope, and definition, have been searchingly analyzed and will continue to invite attention in the years to come. Problems of methodology in historical writing in general and in the history of ideas in particular, have received encouraging and refreshing attention at the hands of a small but significant group.

But it is not alone through scholarly monographs and major syntheses that American intellectual history has demonstrated its vigor and growing maturity. Programs in American Civilization or American Studies received pioneer attention at Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Smith, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and other institutions; and such programs have now also become well established in scores of other colleges and universities. These programs have involved the cooperation of scholars in history, literature, philosophy, the social sciences, and the arts. Some of the programs, notably that at Amherst, have resulted in the production of teaching materials of first importance. Nor has the interest in the interpretation of American civilization been confined to

-xvii-

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