If you had been alive in eighteenth-century America, you would've had little opportunity for formal schooling or an advanced education. Unless you were among the elite or at least of some means, your chances of attending a local academy or Harvard College weren’t great. But the American Revolution ushered in a new era of education in the United States that paved the way for the educational opportunities we take for granted today.
Education became seen as central to the survival of the republic, with local communities, states, and the new federal government all interested in expanding educational opportunities for some Americans, though not as much for others. And in the 1820s, Thomas Jefferson would embark on last great project of his life – the founding of the University of Virginia – which he hoped would preserve the meaning of the Revolution as he understood it.
On today’s show, we’re fortunate to have two old chums return to the program to talk with Jim Ambuske about the crucial role of education in early America.
Dr. Mark Boonshoft is the Executive Director of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and he is the author of Aristocratic Education and the Making of the American Republic, which was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2020. We’re joined by Dr. Andrew O’Shaughnessy, the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, who recently authored The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind: Thomas Jefferson’s Idea of a University, published by the University of Virginia Press in 2021.
Mark Boonshoft is the Executive Director of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and a historian of early America. After receiving a Ph.D. in history from Ohio State University (2015), Mark worked on the Early American Manuscripts Project as a post-doctoral fellow in the New York Public Library’s manuscripts division. His first book, Aristocratic Education and the Making of the American Republic, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in fall 2020, and was a finalist for the 2021 George Washington Book Prize.
Author | Historian
Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy is Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello and Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. His previous books include An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean and The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire, winner of the George Washington Book Prize.