FROM WILLIAMSBURG TO CHARLOTTESVILLE: HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE NEW AMERICAN REPUBLIC
Hopkins, Mary Kate
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This thesis examines the change in higher education curriculum in the state of Virginia in the half-century following the American Revolution. It analyzes how the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia shifted from a traditional, language-based classical education to a more profession-oriented curriculum that would be helpful to men hoping to become lawyers, doctors, etc. The analysis considers the ways in which the creation of the University of Virginia, as overseen by Thomas Jefferson, represents a major turning point in the conceptualization of the role of universities and had a significant impact (whether it was Jefferson’s intention or not) on the changes that took place in the curriculum of universities over the rest of the century. The study examines a variety of primary sources, including the private and public writings of Thomas Jefferson (who had significant links to both institutions), letters from students of the schools, and official university documents including charters and curriculums. Overall, the thesis argues that in nineteenth century America, the market revolution, specialization of the labor force and the rise of the middle class played a significant role in prompting new methods of education at the university level, moving away from a traditional classical curriculum and toward an elective-based, professionally oriented system which better prepared students to succeed in the modernizing economy.