Charles Beard

Category : Economics, Founding, History

charlesbeard

Charles Beard. Communications and External Affairs (CEA). New School Archives and Special Collections Digital Archive. Web. 28 Oct 2014.

Charles Austin Beard (1874 – 1948) was an American Historian, best known for his iconoclastic studies of the development of U.S. political institutions. His emphasis on the dynamics of socioeconomic conflict and change and his analysis of motivational factors in the founding of institutions made him one of the most influential American historians of his time.

Reared in a prosperous family, Beard attended DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, and, after his graduation in 1898, he studied at the University of Oxford. In 1899 he helped found a workingmen’s school in Oxford. In 1900 he visited the United States briefly, married Mary Ritter, and returned to England. He permanently returned to the United States in 1904 to teach political science at Columbia University, New York City.

In 1917 Beard resigned from Columbia University in protest against the investigation and dismissal of several faculty members on charges of disloyalty and subversion. He was a cofounder of the New School for Social Research in New York City in 1919. His intellectual orientation in the next years began to shift toward the problem of historical knowledge, which occupied him during the early 1930s. Beard pointed out the subjective nature of the historian’s selection and arrangement of facts on the basis of his own relationship to contemporary thought.

In the 1930s and ’40s Beard’s interests turned to the history of U.S. foreign policy. In 1934 he began writing a series of books and articles in which he attacked President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s foreign policy. In such books as American Foreign Policy in the Making, 1932–1940(1946) and President Roosevelt and the Coming of War, 1941 (1948), he charged Roosevelt with virtually maneuvering the United States into war with Japan. Beard was criticized as an isolationist because of these views, and his reputation declined somewhat after the publication of his last works, but he is still considered to be one of the most influential American historians of the 20th century.
Beard’s summation of the lessons of history in four sentences has been widely quoted:

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power.
The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small.
The bee fertilizes the flower it robs.
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Web. 23 Oct 2014.

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