Blogs > HNN > Luther Spoehr: New & Recent Books on History of American Higher Education

Sep 23, 2004 1:37 pm

Luther Spoehr: New & Recent Books on History of American Higher Education

(Books mentioned here may be reviewed later.)

Leslie Miller-Bernal and Susan L. Poulson, eds., Going Coed: Women’s Experiences in Formerly Men’s Colleges and Universities, 1950-2000. Vanderbilt University Press. 338 pages. $79.95 (cloth). $29.95 (paper). Published July 2004.

Quick Take: Ambitious look at a many different kinds of institutions, including military academies, Catholic colleges, engineering schools, HBCUs, as well as elite institutions such as Yale and Princeton. Includes overview chapters on the history of coeducation in America. As always, one question will be, how representative are the case studies? But the questions these essays raise (and tentatively answer) about how gender, religious background, institutional purpose, and other characteristics affect the transition to coeducation are important ones.

To read the publisher’s description, complete table of contents, and the first chapter, go to

  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, ed., Yards and Gates: Gender in Harvard and Radcliffe History. 337 pages. Palgrave Macmillan. $26.95 (cloth). Published April 2004.

    Quick Take: A mixed bag: over two dozen essays, from 2 pages to 30 pages long, from scholarly analyses to brief "snapshots from the archives," all aimed at illuminating the ambiguous, ambivalent, difficult experiences of women at Harvard and Radcliffe. Even looks at the period before 1879 (when the Harvard Annex, later to become Radcliffe, was established), to show how women played significant roles at Harvard in the days before there were female students or faculty.

    For complete table of contents, go to

  • Roger Kimball, The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art. 200 pages. Encounter Books. $25.95 (cloth). Published July 2004.

    Quick take: Roger Kimball, who contributed the phrase "tenured radicals" to the culture wars of the 1990s, is back with a polemic about how art historians have politicized his own field of art history. Thus Winslow Homer’s "The Gulf Stream" is now described as "a visual encoding of racism." One needn’t buy Kimball’s whole package to conclude that Kurt Vonnegut’s wisecrack about literature professors–that they know everything about literature except how to enjoy it–may apply to many art historians, too.

    To read the publisher’s description, go to

  • Ron Robin, Scandals and Scoundrels: Seven Cases that Shook the Academy. 260 pages. University of California Press. $49.95 (cloth), $19.95 (paper). To be published October 1, 2004.

    Quick Take: When we see the news about Stephen Ambrose, Michael Bellesiles, Joseph Ellis, and others, says Ron Robin (professor of history and communication studies at the University of Haifa), we aren’t witnessing an academic moral meltdown, just proof that as the boundaries between the university and the rest of society are erased, professors become just one more species of celebrity; their ideas, commodities to be bought and sold, fought over and argued about.

    To read the publisher’s description, go to

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